The fundamental purpose of healthcare professionals is–and should be–to help each person achieve optimum health. However, as evident through history, there have been many incidents where health professionals ended up hurting their patients/subjects. In cases such as the Tuskegee Syphilis Study and the Nazi human experimentation, the experimenters believed that they had good purposes; however, the reality was that these unethical ideologies were normalized as perceived as “good” purposes. Unfortunately, there have also been cases where the physician is aware that what they are doing is unethical, as was the case in Michigan’s Dr. Death incident. The physician was still serving a “good” cause–a cause that was only beneficial (to a certain extent) to himself. In both scenarios, the physicians’ purposes shift from helping people attain optimum health to a different purpose that is wielded by social forces. As a result, patients/subjects are dehumanized and are seen as opportunities for the physicians to attain their goals.
I believe that it is crucial to profoundly discuss these topics because they are often looked over. Before this lecture, I was not aware that these sort of unethical medical practices still occur; this means that the negative stigma around physicians and the U.S. healthcare system in general are only being perpetuated. This lecture also made me realize the holistic responsibility that will come with being a future healthcare professional. As a pre-public health student, I realize that my actions will not only affect a single patient, but rather an entire population. In order to ensure that I do not perpetuate any unethical actions as I pursue my career, I will continue to remind myself that I am working WITH the people, not FOR them. By interacting with the people of the communities that I work with, I hope to be able to get as close to putting myself in their shoes so that I can truly understand what is best for them.
All of that said, my question to you all is: what are some ways that you believe health professionals (specifically the type of professionals that you aspire to be) can reduce negative stigma and gain back people’s trust?