01 April 2010

Moral responsibility – Doing the –RIGHT– thing…

A friend of mine went to see her family doctor.  The doctor has been her family doctor for decades.  He was her family doctor ever since she was a child.  This makes for wonderful continuity in patient history and allows the doctor the get a more holistic view of their patient and the patient’s family.  She went to go see him because she was having major lower back muscle spasms and pain.  This had been going on for about a week and his response was to prescribe some muscle relaxers for her… Flexeril to be exact.  Now having a pharmacist for a father, she’s always been keenly aware of drug reactions and side effects so, she specifically asked the doctor if there was any side effects to the drug he prescribed.  His reply was “No, not really.”.
She filled the prescription and called her dad to just double check on possible side effects of the drug.  He said that it could cause extreme drowsiness so it should only be taken at night.  She followed her dad’s advice.  What precipitated during the course of the next two days, was nothing short of mind blowing.  The drowsiness was certainly there, as her dad had warned (yet the doctor failed to note), but there was also a weird change in mood swings that was just unnatural.  Thankfully she recognized the sudden, irrational changes in mood as well as the acute anger and sensitivity that accompanied it.  She began to do some research on the topic and within 10 minutes on Google, found information that could only be described as disturbing.  
She immediately stopped taking the drug and disposed of the remaining pills, vowing never to take it again.  This is all good and well, but what if she had NOT been so acutely aware of side effects?  I don’t want to play “what if” games, because it doesn’t lead anywhere good.
In my profession, I don’t have any legal or ethical responsibility to keep up to date with changes in the marketplace, yet I do it diligently because I see it as my moral responsibility to provide the best possible service to my clients and to have as much information available and processed as possible before making one recommendation over another.  I know we live in an “it’s not my fault” society and yes, I despise that mode of thinking, but with a medical doctor, especially one you’ve trusted your well being to for so many years, there’s a very deep level of trust associated.
Shouldn’t this doctor KNOW what the potential side effects of the drugs he prescribe are?
Shouldn’t this doctor ASK QUESTIONS of the pharmaceutical rep that pawns this crap off for him to prescribe?
Shouldn’t this doctor at least DO SOME RESEARCH on the kind of drugs he prescribes?
To me the answers are and always will be YES, YES and YES!!!  But alas, that wasn’t the case here.  It seems to me this doctor has been in the business too long and has become complacent.  Maybe it’s easier to improve your swing and make your tea time than it is to spend some time researching facts that may affect the lives of those who trust their care into your hands.


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