Uncertainty in the diagnostic methods of the obstetrician

Posted by: admin on: June 28, 2011

Now that the appropriate technology is available, the obstetrician may virtually eliminate intrapartum stillbirths and reduce morbidity to a minimum.

  • Computers were becoming commonplace in academic settings and nuclear energy a reality, doctors should be able to reliably detect fetal distress and act upon it safely, sparing parents the grief of the past.
  • Likewise, ultrasounds have allowed us to peer into the womb, and into the bodies of our unborn children, allowing us to anticipate not only the gender of our babies, but also see things as subtle as heart or spine defects.
  • Molecular biology has allowed us to go even further, and examine the blueprints of life in utero, allowing parents to prepare for a child with chromosomal issues, or reassuring those with family histories of hereditary disorders.
  • Reality, however, has proven otherwise. Despite close and continuous monitoring in labor by the best trained and most capable staff and doctors, babies still die suddenly, or are born with unexpected asphyxia, or unanticipated illness.
  • Families feel bewildered and betrayed and seek explanation and often recourse. If the latest technology was employed, then certainly human error must have been the cause
  • If, however, one looks critically at the myriad of diagnostic methods, and treatments used by the modern obstetrician, it becomes quite clear that there is much that is uncertain and much we cannot control.
  • Most experienced practitioners know this, but are often resistant to admit this to their patients and the public, but this lack of disclosure has a tendency to backfire.
  • Huge numbers of babies and mothers have been saved by modern medical care, but the failure to admit to ourselves and the patients we serve that we cannot guarantee perfect outcomes does a disservice to us all.
  • Bad things do happen to good doctors (and nurses, and midwives etc) and the sooner everyone understands this, the sooner we can start practicing evidence-based medicine as opposed to ritual-based medicine
  • Conversations need to start with recommendations and explanations of their rationale, but leave room for the ever present uncertainty of outcomes as well as factoring in the patients desires and apprehensions.
  • “I don’t know” are three of the most powerful words in medicine and should be used more often.
  • Patients who don’t want to hear this need to realize that any practitioner who believes that they truly KNOW anything for certain is more dangerous than the one that makes allowances for the great amount of variability that life entails.
  • This more open communication should certainly help to restore the trust patients once had in their providers, and begin the process of reducing costs due to defensive medicine, as well as lessen patients’ sense of betrayal that sometimes occurs with unexpected bad outcomes.

Read More:  http://www.kevinmd.com/blog/2011/03/uncertainty-diagnostic-methods-obstetrician.html

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