Hitting a Nerve

Keeping Politics Out of the Office


 

I try very hard not to discuss politics with patients. Politics are always flammable.

I respect everyone’s right to an opinion, and certainly don’t treat them any different, regardless of what it is. But, in my experience, it’s simply best not to know.

So when patients ask me who I’m voting for, I generally tell them I don’t discuss such issues in my practice. Some doctors will say I’m missing an opportunity to educate them about important issues, such as the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, but I take the view that such isn’t my job.

I’m here to provide medical care and education about their condition. Discussions about politics, no matter how well intended, can often lead beyond polite disagreements to anger or resentment – elements that are never good things in the doctor-patient relationship.

When I was a younger doctor, once a week I’d work at a prisoner clinic. It was strictly forbidden to ask what the person was in for, on the same grounds: If it was, say, a child molester, would that alter the care you’d provide? Maybe, maybe not. We are all human, and it’s not easy to remain objective when dealing with someone who might disgust you.

Objectivity is a critical element in patient care. It’s the same reason we (generally) try not to treat family members or friends. Once you lose it, the relationship can’t be returned to its previous level. So it’s best not to start at all.

Dr. Block has a solo neurology private practice in Scottsdale, Ariz.

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