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Public's respect for doctors rises, while trust for journalists plummets

Canadians love their doctors. But journalists? Not so much.

That's according to the results of a , released yesterday.

Since 1994, the public's respect for physicians has grown from 91% to 94%. Over the same period of time, respect for journalists (that's me!) dropped from 73% to a meagre 49%.


I have a theory, though: if the survey had taken into account specialization within those professions, I'm confident that we medical journalists would come out on top compared to other beat reporters. Maybe that's the doctors' respect level just rubbing off on us, but it certainly seems that nowadays, as medical reportage is becoming more and more popular in all media -- TV, print, web and radio -- the public has a near-insatiable demand for health news.

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Yet another Canadian pathology disaster emerges

First it was Toronto. Then St John's, Newfoundland. Next came Miramichi, New Brunswick.

Now, we learn of the fourth incident in a that have recently come to light.

This time, it's in Owen Sound, Ontario, where an internal audit at the Grey Bruce Health Services hospital that pathologist Barry Sawka's error rate over his last 600 cases was 6% -- far more than the average of 1%.

Dr Sawka withdrew from practice voluntarily -- after the hospital requested he do so -- when the internal review was started in February. He has reviewed around 40,000 cases since he began working at Grey Bruce Health Services in 1994, all of which the hospital says could potentially be subject to review.

The hospital that it has already begun contacting patients to be reexamined in light of the revelation, but claims no deaths have been connected to any of Dr Sawka's errors.

has been set up to inform patients about the situation as it develops. According to the Owen Sound Sun Times, lawyers' phones are .

"The shortages and the deficiencies and the gaps in laboratory services are so widespread, I think there's a risk in many locations that problems are going to come to the surface," Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons CEO Dr Andrew Padmos this week.

Canadian Association of Pathologists president Dr Jagdish Butany echoed that same sentiment when he and I spoke last month. "Over the last 20-plus years, we have not paid enough attention to laboratories and pathology and pathologists," he said. "[The healthcare system has] relegated pathologists to the basement and given them that same priority."

For more on the root causes and the implications of the recent problems in pathology, read my article "" in the April issue of the National Review of Medicine.

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Around the web: Grand Rounds and Health Wonk Review

is hosted by . The theme, oddly enough, is professional wrestling. I'm at a loss to explain how that pertains to medicine but the collection of articles is worthwhile reading nevertheless. Our entry on the CMAJ's spoof article mix-up problem is included.

The is also online, at the . Canadian Medicine's recent piece on apology protection legislation proposed in Ontario is mentioned.

Keep your eye out for the next editions, whether you're a reader or a blogger who'd like to submit an article for consideration: here are the schedules for upcoming and anthologies. Another excellent medical blogging collection is the biweekly .

We're hosting the next edition of the Medicine 2.0 blog carnival on May 5. For details, click here.

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Hollywood's war against physicians escalates

Hollywood has it in for physicians. That's the only conclusion I can draw from the new release of the thriller , close on the heels of the anesthesic-awareness terror film .

Check out the trailers for the movies. A word of warning: they're pretty gruesome.



Awake had anesthetists up in arms, as we wrote last summer, with its depiction of Canadian actor Hayden Christensen as a patient who isn't properly sedated and feels every aspect of his open-heart surgery. "Anesthesiologists are not looking forward to [Awake] coming out at all," at the time.

I recall that at a Ontario Hospital Association conference last year, one anesthesiology professor was trying to kill some time as technicians tried to repair the projector in the lecture hall. He jokingly offered to talk about how he felt about Awake. The doctors in the room shifted in their seats and looked around uncomfortably. Thankfully the technical problems were resolved quickly and everyone breathed a palpable sigh of relief.

From the trailer and the several reviews I've seen of Pathology, it looks even more damning than Awake. (If that's possible.) The film's pathologists appear to be sex-crazed, blood-thirsty nihilists. Of course, some might say that's entirely true -- but I somehow doubt that's an accurate portrayal of pathologists. The pathologists whom I have spoken to in the past have been thoughtful, concerned and responsible (and, I admit it, less attractive than the actors in Pathology).

What's up with all these evil doctors invading Hollywood features lately? I have a theory: the 24-hour news cycle and the advent of the internet have made patients much ore alert to the shortcomings of certain physicians (a quick web search will turn up plenty of scandals). People's expectations are of infallible, perfect medical professionals; the reality is less glamorous and awe-inspiring. Now, a spate of fear-inducing films about dangerous doctors has been the result. As put it recently in a review of Pathology, the horrific product of Hollywood's look at doctors of late is "the ultimate testament to the arrogant detachment of the medical profession."

That same interpretation can be applied to the Canadian situation, too. Events over the past few years in the country's pathology and laboratory system have been disastrous, as I write in in this month's National Review of Medicine. It's no wonder movie producers saw pathology as fertile ground for a thriller with a large body count.

On the other hand, one somewhat more optimistic take on medicine could be found in the excellent French film , directed by Julian Schnabel and released last year, in which the locked-in-syndrome patient's doctors, nurses and therapists are sympathetic, intelligent, compassionate and even sultry. Now that is the kind of doctor everyone wants to see.

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