Article Date: 3/1/2005

Ethical Doctoring

Dear colleague,

My old friend Bruce, a syndicated columnist and respected author, recently called to tell me he's now a CNN analyst. I first met Bruce when I invited him to speak to our optometry society. We wanted to present unique topics, and Bruce was perfect for the job.

What's so unique about Bruce? His doctorate in philosophy and bioethics from Georgetown University gives him a refreshing and inspiring perspective on doctoring. His speech prompted us to re-examine issues that influence our clinical actions. To doctor -- or adapt or modify for a desired end -- is a tremendous responsibility that compels us to teach and guide our patients without bias or outside influence.

Bruce reminded us we need to pay more attention to the external forces that affect our profession. We live and work in a competitive world where corporations use a variety of techniques to influence doctoring decisions. Young clinicians may find it difficult to differentiate between appropriate and inappropriate "guidance" by those with much to gain by influencing our decision to prescribe.

On the surface, accepting gifts, practice incentives and free trips may seem harmless, but when these are provided in exchange for your professional recommendation, it clearly is not. Every new O.D. will, sooner or later, face this dilemma. If you're tempted, put yourself in your patients' shoes. How would you feel if you knew your doctor didn't prescribe the best medicine for you, but instead chose the medicine for which he receives an incentive?

As Bruce says, "An ethical life makes us happier, healthier and more prosperous." *

I wish you a happy, healthy and prosperous 2005!

All the best,

Howard B. Purcell, O.D., F.A.A.O.
New England College of Optometry '84
VISTAKON® consultant to new O.D.
(800) 876-6622, ext. 1019; (904) 443-1019


*You can see Bruce Weinstein, Ph.D., on CNN's "Ask the Ethics Guy," a question-and-answer segment modeled after his Knight Ridder/Tribune syndicated column of the same name. His cross-country interactive talks to businesses, schools and non-profit organizations show how living an ethical life makes us happier, healthier and more prosperous.


Optometric Management, Issue: March 2005