I could not help but respond to the Psychiatric Times article with the same title that they e-mailed me this morning. Trust in an interesting concept when you live in a country that is politically managed for laissez faire capitalism and the only protection that the average citizen has against various cartels is caveat emptor. The vocal irrational biases against psychiatry should discourage blind trust of psychiatrists even further. Early in my career, I stayed away from any interpretive approaches to a lack of trust and took a simple cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) approach. That goes something like this: "I don't think there is any basis for you to trust me or not trust me. I would encourage skepticism and taking a look at what I actually do for you. If you find the recommendations, discussions and treatments that I recommend are useful, that is more clearcut evidence that I might be helpful to you. If not, certainly let me know and we will figure out what to do about it". Many of the people I have worked with over the years who had "trust issues" have found that to be a useful approach.
In reading the article, I find out that it is about the legal requirements involved in informing women about abortion. specifically the fact that in some states physicians are now required to tell women that a fetus will feel pain as it is aborted. Additional states require women to pay for an ultrasound evaluation and view the fetal image before the abortion, advise women that abortion leads to an increase in breast cancer, and refer women for counseling after advising them that an abortion places them at risk for adverse mental health consequences. The authors cite the scientific evidence to the contrary in all cases. Can you trust a physician who is reciting abortion law boilerplate when they are advising you about that procedure? Probably as much as you can trust a physician doing a safety assessment in a situation where they are prohibited by state law from discussing firearms that the patient may have at home.
I don't think anyone should be surprised about the lack of science involved when politicians decide to manipulate physicians to do their bidding. I currently live in one of the most liberal states in the United States and every year I get a letter informing me of the number of abortions performed every year and reminding me of my obligation to report if I perform an abortion. It is a state law that all physicians receive this letter, even if they are psychiatrists who don't do any surgical procedures. The intent of the letter is to clearly intimidate physicians into not performing abortions.
To quote the downside from the authors: "These politically motivated laws undermine the concept that medical decision-making is based on scientific evidence. They force physicians to act as agents of the state government rather than put their patients’ interests first. They are intended to intimidate women so that they will not have abortions. They are corrosive to honesty in the physician-patient relationship, interfere with the physician’s responsibility to the patient, and violate medical ethical principles."
I think that any reasonable physician would agree. I have been pointing out for decades that physicians have been agents of the state for a long time. Colluding with managed care and all of its governmental variations is a clear example. The entire managed care manual on when to discharge people from hospitals and how to do that has nothing to do with science. The entire concept that all medications in the same drug class are equivalent has nothing to do with science. Practically all of the rationing that occurs by the government and managed care companies has nothing to do with science. But it doesn't stop there. All state statutes having to do with the duty to warn have nothing to do with science and more to do with where the deep pockets are located. In the original case precedent the perpetrator was detained and interviewed by the police and released before the homicide. It was a clear example of the failure of the police to protect the victim and yet that was spun into the responsibility of clinicians to warn potential victims. How much legislation is out there to create work for trial attorneys?
I was at a conference a few years ago where hospice care was being discussed as the latest innovation in hospital care. When I thought about how people are assessed and discharged from acute care hospitals my question seemed obvious: "Since there are care managers forcing discharges, isn't there a potential conflict of interest if hospice care is seen as the fastest way to discharge somebody from a hospital?" The result was dead silence, a moment of confusion ("He really didn't ask that question did he?"), and then I was ultimately ignored as the speaker moved on. With all of the focus on what are really trivial conflicts of interest in psychiatry, think about that for a moment. A care manager representing the business interests of the hospital, the MCO/ACO, and the political interests of the politicians interfering with the practice of medicine has options available to them with the potential to short circuit care and provide less intensive care than might be recommended by a physician.
I was in a clinic recently where I was given an impressively long list of exceptions to patient privacy. I picked up one of my electrical engineering journals the other day and was warned about how the Internet of Things (IOT) will be collecting all sorts of data on the average citizen, but that the owners of the data (Google, Facebook, etc), hope that the average citizen will see the worth in all of this information being in their hands.
Turning over all of this information and power over to the political and business classes is an obvious mistake. Eliminating what has been described as a mandarin class - the physicians is another. Unfortunately physicians and their professional organizations are completely inept at dealing with this problem and we are left with these inappropriate political intrusions and physicians acting like agents of the state and business cartels.
That means that politicians will not only try to manipulate who is born based on their ideology, but more importantly who has access to medical care and the level of intensity and who dies. It is happening right now and it should be a lot scarier than a fictional robot time-traveling back from the future.
Remember the CBT approach to your physician, your health plan and your insurance company and make sure they are doing what you want them to do and not what some politician or business manager wants them to do.
George Dawson, MD, DFAPA