Have you heard the one about the
two doctors who started a fist fight while their patient was going into labour?
Unhappily, it is not a joke. Two doctors in a hospital in Sicily went at it
hammer and tongs recently, forgetting that they had to care for a woman who was giving
birth. The gynaecologist punched his hand through a window after another doctor
grabbed his collar.
The baby may have suffered heart
and brain damage as a result. The doctors and the hospital deny that the
infant’s problems have anything to do with their disagreement, but the Italian
health minister was so upset that he paid a visit to the mother in her hospital
An inconsequential story? In some
ways, yes. It hardly represents the Italian health system, which has one
of the world’s lowest rates of maternal mortality. But it does remind us that
doctors, like the rest of us, are human. They have passions like anger, greed,
and ambition. Some of them lie, cheat and plagiarise. Very few of them, to be
sure, but some. Stories like these are a salutary reminder that the public
should never give into a “white coat syndrome” and blindly assume the good faith,
ethical integrity and objectivity of doctors and scientists. Laws should not be
drafted on the assumption that doctors will almost never abuse their privileged
position or will not allow financial gain to trump ethics.
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