Chapter IV: The Responsibility and the Morale of Physicians

By Fenigsen, Richard; Fenigsen, Ryszard | Issues in Law & Medicine, Fall 2012 | Go to article overview

Chapter IV: The Responsibility and the Morale of Physicians


Fenigsen, Richard, Fenigsen, Ryszard, Issues in Law & Medicine


Doing More Than Required. One of 20th century's most talented Polish poets was admitted to the Omega Clinic, Warsaw's fashionable medical center, with vague abdominal complaints. Nothing particular was found upon routine examination. Gastroscopy and X-rays were scheduled for the next two days. Meanwhile, the nurse observed the patient's condition at her rounds, that is, every hour.

However, my friend Dr. Jakub Winer somehow could not set his mind to rest. He wasn't even the patient's attending physician, just the director of the hospital; but he came to see the patient several times. He apparently sensed something unaccountable in the poet's condition. When he came again at 11:30 p.m., between the nurse's visits, he found the patient collapsing from a huge stomach bleed. The man could not even reach the bell. Surgery for the bleeding ulcer was immediately done and saved the patient's life.

One might observe that the doctor's alertness and diligence may have been heightened by his admiration for the patient's poetry and because the patient was a celebrity. That is probably true. But it is also true that Dr. Winer only did what good doctors in hundreds of hospitals are doing every day and every night for patients who are not celebrities.

They do it, not necessarily for lofty reasons. A doctor may do it out of a sense of duty, but he may also be moved by ambition, or he may be living up to his own obsessive personality. Most doctors who exert themselves without limits are simply compelled to do so by the logic of this work. In Den Bosch, after typical work hours the hospital doctors returned to their houses and were supposed to be on call. This was not good enough in some cases; in particular, to tend to patients whose condition might change within seconds, as with life-threatening disturbances in heart rhythm, or who may irreversibly deteriorate within minutes, as in cardiogenic shock, pulmonary edema, or large myocardial infarction in young men. Therefore, I put my hospital office in a room situated eight feet from the coronary care unit, and whenever such a "brittle" case was admitted I would spend a night or two on a couch in the office, getting up every half-hour to look at the patient, and darting off at every signal from the nurses. I was physically fit, able to take advantage of ten minutes of sleep, and to wake up in a second to full consciousness. Thus, these nights were not taking too heavy a toll on me. Neither was I much bothered by the displeasure of some other doctors who thought that I was setting unreasonable standards which they did not intend to adopt. Was it worth while? I happen to know the answer, and I owe it to the Central Bureau of Statistics from which every medical specialist in Holland received computerized statements showing the number of patients he treated, their diagnoses, as well as other data, including the mortality rate compared with the national average. As long as I alone was leading the department (1976-1981), the Central Bureau of Statistics statements showed, year in and year out, a thirteen percent mortality rate among my patients while the average national mortality rate of patients with the same diseases and in the same age groups held constant at seventeen percent.

Fighting Good Fights for the Patients' Sake. Doctor Ignaz Philip Semmelweis (18181865) has long been, and remains, our worthy example. He divined that puerperal fever (fever that follows childbirth), of which so many young mothers died, was an infection, and that at the University of Vienna department of obstetrics it was brought over from the dissecting-room on the unwashed hands and aprons of doctors and medical students. (36) Semmelweis was almost destroyed by the enmity of his incredulous and indignant colleagues, but he carried on through all difficulties his postulates of cleanness and antisepsis, and the epidemic was stopped.

Well, many of us have to fight battles on a larger or smaller scale.

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

Chapter IV: The Responsibility and the Morale of Physicians
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.