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My mother was ill will a lung infection and dementia. She had a very high fever and the doctor said to bring her in to the hospital.

We did and told everyone her situation. They insisted on treating her like any other patient even though we told them she had dementia and was going to be very difficult. We asked if they could sedate her before doing anything. They wouldn't. Instead, they used an anal thermometer on her and laughed while she screamed bloody murder. It was horrible and undignified. I felt so bad for her. I held her hand and tried to calm her down. They also insisted on putting her unnecessarily through all these tests when we knew what was wrong with her. She had already been more than adequately diagnosed by some of the best doctors in Manhattan but apparently when you go into hospital none of it is valid! Then they quarantined her. I wanted to switch hospitals or take her home but my father refused. The whole experience was a nightmare and she died in that stinking place. Someone recently said that hospitals were invented for cost-effective treatment of large amounts of people, not for quality care. Judging by the number of elderly who die in hospital of pneumonia makes me tend to agree.
Am I wrong?

Christine Goepfert

Referring to all these comments I would like to oppose to the idea that is given us by the articles and comments that make generalizations about doctors being the major assholes.

A doctor myself my experience and what I heard from lots of German hospitals is different. The overall cast here is: admin-nurse-doctor, with the exception of the majority of head doctors and their allegiance within a very hierarchical and secluded system (see: power makes the jerk, here they are!).

Admin and government dictating diagnosis and therapy, even where and for how long to practice, lowering the gross earnings (as a surrogate for appreciation in our western societies) of most doctors to that of their assistance personnel - at the most.

Nursing staff refusing to nurse and care and do what they are employed for, intrusively encroaching upon doctors duties (leaving the responsibility to them however) and massively bullying preferably young and female residents.

Disrespect and asshole-behaviour goes the other way round, too, as you might see.

If asshole-behaviour is tolerated and supported by certain authorities or if you are an authority whose main interest it is to maintain or gain power (and it is all about power in life) it does not matter if you are a nurse or doctor.


Hello Bob,

I have limited experience with hospitals but I had the chance to work as consultant to "rescue" an academic hospital from bankruptcy.

Being used to work with large corporations, this was a shock:
- a cast system (doctors-nurses-admin) like I have never seen
- to make it worse, all doctors are men, all nurses are women (almost)
- no governance, a constant political game and lobbying exercise
- uninformed decisions on management
- at least, there was no greed as it was an academic hospital (not the place to make money if you are a doctor in Europe) ... but this was used to justify everything and anything

But I also encountered very intelligent and dedicated people, truly working to improve others' life; very impressive

What I take away is a feeling of fragility hidden behind a lot of inertia; a bit like an ancient civilization that would survive by keeping its old rituals but that is bound to disappear


Kevin Rutkowski

I didn't realize that physicians had a reputation for being assholes. I guess the characters on the sitcom "Scrubs" might be more realistic than I thought!

Jason Yip

What are your thoughts on Lean health care?


Hi Bob,
I just got on your site to send you a link to the article because when I read it I knew it was just the thing you would want to write about. Glad to see you beat me to it.

Leeroy Glinchy

I have mixed feelings about doctors. Of course, they are people, and are a mixed bag like the rest of us.

When I was in med school, I recall that everyone seemed to be jerks. But then I got held back a year, and the people in the next class seemed to be fairly nice people.

It was only years later that I realized that I had been a complete asshole myself so I had no ground to stand on.

I think our system really sucks for picking people to be doctors because it focuses too much on academic achievement, which I do not think is that important to make a good doctor. People don't want the smartest doctor, they want a caring person. People who aren't smart enough to be a doctor will never pass the tests in med school. People that are too mean to be doctors will often excel in the tough med school environment. We have this system and wonder why docs are often mean. I had friends who would have been great docs, but they didn't get into med school b/c they messed up in a class or two. That's not fair as they are really smart _and_ kind.

After I dropped out, I briefly became a nurse. I noticed that almost all the doctors in the hospital were great both kind and intelligent. I was so happy to work for them. So not all doctors are bad. Their job is tough and they are mostly deep in debt. For the amount of work, I actually think doctors are paid just enough and some are even underpaid. It's a job I could never do.

Bradley Evans

I wouldn't bang the Happy Gong too soon. While it's nice to know that regulatory agencies have noticed the problem, hospitals will use new rules and regulations to keep physicians and surgeons who make them money, and will get rid of physicians who are "dysruptive." Being in a Business School, you would associate disruptive with disruptive innovation, a good thing. "Disruptive" to administrators means physicians are troublesome to them for one reason or another. Nurse abuse is hardly ever the reason. A law firm in Pittsburgh, Horty-Springer, specializes in helping hospitals to get rid of "disruptive" physicians. Usually the mechanism involves the willing complicity of fellow physicians, through a process called "sham peer review."

The best bet to rid hospitals of nurse abuse is to enable nurses to bring complaints before their peers, and have those decisions enforced at medical staff level.

Have a good day,

Brad Evans

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