Public Expectations and Physicians’ Responsibilities: Voices of Medical Humanities

By Dr. John K. Crellin

Public Expectations and Physicians’ Responsibilities: Voices of Medical Humanities

This book grew out of resources developed for a course on medical humanities for students at Memorial’s medical school. Dr. John Crellin established this course in 1996 at a time when there were increasing public concerns about the declining professionalism of physicians. An interdisciplinary group within the Faculty of Medicine favoured broadening ethics teaching to embrace, in a formal way, the co-curricular activities in the humanities that were already being offered to students.

The structure of Dr. Crellin’s book draws on an influential project that emerged in Canada in 1993 called Educating the Future Physicians of Ontario. The project identified about eight roles that embody an “ideal physician,” including the physician as medical expert, communicator, collaborator, health advocate, learner, manager (“gatekeeper”), scholar/scientist, and the physician as person and professional. These roles have been adapted as the CanMeds Competencies by the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Canada to guide training programs.

In the first chapter of this book, Dr. Crellin examines the public perception of the doctor as a professional, drawing on literature and film to show a rather unfavourable image in recent years, including accounts of sexual abuse, substance abuse and sadism along with the somewhat milder but still negative perceptions of the doctor as paternalistic or hard-edged and unsympathetic.

Dr. John K. Crellin

The public message is that the bright physicians who care for them are not always caring, not always communicative, not always good listeners: in short, doctors don’t always seem to be acting in their patient’s best interests.

Dr. Crellin concludes that nowadays individual physicians have to earn public respect and respond to both a changing society and to specific issues such as giving or offering the patient a much bigger role in decision making than in the past. Both doctors and the public have new responsibilities in ensuring that healthcare practitioners can fulfill as many patients’ wishes and needs as possible.

Public Expectations and Physicians’ Responsibilities is published by Radcliffe.