Go be a pathologist then!
Yesterday I was surfing around the latest Britmeds and discovered an interesting but typical example of ‘pathological ignorance’ (there’s also a link to a good article just below here!). When I say ‘pathological ignorance’ I mean the failure to understand what pathologists actually do, which tends to lead to statements like this one (on the subject of doctors refusing to do abortions):
If those doctors don’t want to do so, they should consider going to work in pathology, where most of the human beings they come across will already be past giving a damn about a doctor’s precious prejudices or their religious hang-ups.
Contrary to what Ben Fenton, the author of this article thinks, we do have religious issues with abortions in pathology. Some pathologists do not report specimens of ‘products of conception’ derived from abortions; the issue does not go away outside the gynaecology department.
The author of this piece also makes the mistake of assuming that in pathology the vast majority of our patients are dead. Not true. In most departments I’ve worked in there are around 10 times the number of living patients (their specimens, at any rate) than dead ones examined by us pathologists. He also assumes that the dead will not care about our prejudices or religious hang-ups; maybe the dead don’t but their relatives certainly might. In pathology it is more often the religion of the family that impacts on us as certain faiths need to bury the body as soon as possible after death so an autopsy needs to be done more quickly.
A second issue with autopsies is that in some cases the relatives, via the coroner, will allow only a limited autopsy which may not answer the questions posed by the death. As pathologists we want to do a high quality autopsy that is thorough, answers the questions and doesn’t miss anything. In cases where the pathologist thinks the autopsy will be too limited to be of use, he or she can refuse to do the autopsy (RCPath Guiodelines on Autopsy Practice 2002 section 4.6.2). Does this count as ‘prejudice’ or professionalism in Ben Fenton's book?