Navigation Links
Is modern medicine ill with dehumanization?
Date:3/19/2012

"Anyone who has been admitted into a hospital or undergone a procedure, even if cared for in the most appropriate way, can feel as though they were treated like an animal or object," says Harvard University psychologist and physician Omar Sultan Haque. Health care workers enter their professions to help people; research shows that empathic, humane care improves outcomes. Yet dehumanization is endemic. The results can be disastrous: neglect of necessary treatments or prescription of excessive, painful procedures or dangerous drugs.

What are the causes and effects of dehumanization in medicine? And what can be done about it? In Perspectives in Psychological Science, a journal of the Association for Psychological Science, Haque and co-author Adam Waytz at the Kellogg School of Management of Northwestern University synthesize diverse literatures to distinguish when dehumanization is useful from when it is not. Then they recommend "simple, cheap, and effective" changes to "make medical institutions more humane and ethical, as well as efficacious in the service of improved health," says Haque.

The structures of institutions and the psychological demands of providing care can cause professionals to treat patients as less than human. "Deindividuation"doctors as a sea of white coats; patients as half-naked bodies in smocks, identified by their disease or procedure ("the gallbladder in Room 38")allows staffs to avoid taking responsibility for each patient. "Impaired patient agency" refers to medical staffs' treatment of patients as incapable of planning their own care, which is both infantilizing and demoralizing. "Dissimilarity"hierarchies of power, differences of race, class, and gender between staff and patientshave roots outside the hospital. Nevertheless, they cause miscommunication and alienation, even maltreatment. None of these practices serves good medical care.

More complex are dehumanizing practices that may aid care. Diagnosis and treatment might necessitate "mechanization"breaking the body into organs and systems. Scaling back empathy can diminish staff stress and burnout. Even moral disengagement can be adaptive. From giving a shot to slicing into the flesh to perform surgery, medical care often requires inflicting pain or invading the boundaries of the body in violation of deeply held human taboos. And patients may die after even the best of care. For the professional, guilt could be paralyzing.

Still, the authors argue, dehumanization is useful only in "specific contexts," such as acute care. Waytz says, "Dehumanization's functionality varies wildly across specialities from pediatrics to orthopedic surgery, so future research is needed to determine when dehumanization is most prevalent and most detrimental." In the meantime, the authors offer numerous humanizing fixes: Call patients by name, not numbers; discourage labeling people as diseases; personalize hospital rounds and pre-surgical preparation; eliminate opaque surgical masks; affix photos to CT scans and biopsies. Include patients in care planning. Let them choose their gownsand design those gowns so they're no so humiliating. Increase physician diversity and hire people with good social skills. And, for med schools, perhaps most radical: Eliminate the "white-coat ceremony" when graduates don the mufti of the elect.

Finally, "we should train medical professionals to think of themselves as mortal sharing a common humanity and vulnerability with their patients," says Haque. Although dehumanization can be useful, "even functional dehumanization should be viewed like a potent, salutary, but dangerous drug that can have disastrous side-effects" when overprescribed.


'/>"/>

Contact: Lucy Hyde
lhyde@psychologicalscience.org
202-293-9300
Association for Psychological Science
Source:Eurekalert

Related medicine news :

1. The disappearance of the elephant caused the rise of modern man
2. Vintage leather football helmets often as protective as modern helmets in common, game-like hits
3. Modern Technology Reveals Clues From Egyptian Mummy
4. Modern Shift Work Patterns May Be Less Harmful to Health
5. Modern shift work pattern potentially less harmful to health
6. Modern targeted drug plus old malaria pill serve a 1-2 punch in advanced cancer patients
7. Study shows that modern surgery for scoliosis has good long-term outcomes
8. Learning from old bones to treat modern back pain
9. Famed neurosurgeons century-old notes reveal modern style admission of medical error
10. Sows ears and silk purses: Packing more flavor into modern pork
11. The brains journey from early Internet to modern-day fiber optics -- all in 1 lifetime
Post Your Comments:
*Name:
*Comment:
*Email:
(Date:6/25/2016)... ... June 25, 2016 , ... Dr. Calvin Johnson ... Recently, he has implemented orthobiologic procedures as a method for treating his patients. ... the first doctors to perform the treatment. Orthobiologics are substances that orthopaedic surgeons ...
(Date:6/24/2016)... Marne, Michigan (PRWEB) , ... June 24, 2016 , ... ... To deal with these feelings, many turn to unhealthy avenues, such as drug or ... Center of Marne, Michigan, has released tools for healthy coping following a traumatic event. ...
(Date:6/24/2016)... MIAMI, Fla. (PRWEB) , ... June 24, 2016 , ... ... Florida Trend magazine’s 2016 Legal Elite. The attorneys chosen by their peers for this ... of Florida. , Seven Greenberg Traurig Shareholders received special honors as members of this ...
(Date:6/24/2016)... ... ... People across the U.S. are sharpening their pencils and honing their writing skills ... patients and their families pay tribute to a genetic counselor by nominating him or ... Counselors (NSGC) Annual Education Conference (AEC) this September. , In April, Genome magazine ...
(Date:6/24/2016)... Frederick, Maryland (PRWEB) , ... June 24, 2016 ... ... Mid-Atlantic Angels is actively feeding the Frederick area economy by obtaining investment capital ... support over the past 2½ years that have already resulted in more than ...
Breaking Medicine News(10 mins):
(Date:6/23/2016)... 2016 Research and Markets has announced ... report to their offering. ... a favourable commercial environment for MedImmune to enter. The US ... will serve to drive considerable growth for effective anti-influenza medications. ... cap sales considerably, but development is still in its infancy. ...
(Date:6/23/2016)... and INDIANAPOLIS , June 23, ... a Lilly Diabetes Tomorrow,s Leaders Scholarship is any indication, ... winners, announced today online at www.diabetesscholars.org by ... 1 diabetes stand in the way of academic and ... the Foundation,s scholarship program since 2012, and continues to ...
(Date:6/23/2016)...  Guerbet announced today that it has been named ... . One of 12 suppliers to receive ... support of Premier members through exceptional local customer service ... to lower costs. ... outstanding customer service from Premier," says Massimo Carrara ...
Breaking Medicine Technology: