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The case of Ian Paterson

////The case of Ian Paterson

Ian Paterson was sentenced to 15 years of jail on Wednesday: Not only was he found guilty of performing unnecessary mastectomies (ie. surgical removal of breast tissue) on his patients by exaggerating symptoms when other less invasive procedures could have been opted for, he was also found to be performing a dangerous procedure that he invented, “cleavage-sparing mastectomy.” [1] Despite being theoretically appealing to women undergoing mastectomies as it could retain the shape of the breast and allow them to wear “bikinis and pretty tops,” it is surely not in the eyes of medical experts due to the higher possibility of cancer returning.

Similar to Shipman , he has abused the “respectability and cloak of professionalism.” [2] Doubtless, these incidents have profound knock-on effects on the doctor-patient relationship. Indeed, one victim of Paterson, Ms Carole Johnson, expressed in her impact statement that she has “lost a lot of trust in medical professionals.” [2]

“What qualities should a good doctor possess?” This is surely a well-known interview question, and the typical student would possibly answer “being empathetic, compassionate, competent, honest…” These are all correct, but has it ever crossed your minds as to what all these qualities culminate to?

Trust in a doctor-patient relationship.

The importance of trust must not be undermined. For instance, the permission for performing even the least invasive procedure on the patient will not be feasible, because the patient who suspects that the doctor does not act in their best interest will not give informed consent. Numerous studies have also showed that trust is therapeutic, as it can increase the efficacy of prescribed treatments.[3] Hillen et al. have also demonstrated its significance especially in the field of oncology, whereby it “resulted in facilitated communication and medical decision making, a decrease of patient fear, and better treatment adherence.” [4]

So, remember, aspiring young doctors, earn your patients’ trust. Cherish and never betray it.

[1]http://www.bbc.com/news/uk-england-birmingham-39580765

[2]http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2017/05/31/rogue-breast-cancer-surgeon-ian-paterson-sentenced-15-years/

[3] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1495000/

[4] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20878840

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I'm a medical student at Cambridge University, and one of the co-founders of 6med. I created the BMAT Crash Course and Interview Crash Course, and helped code BMAT Ninja and UKCAT Ninja. If you need a hand with anything, feel free to give me a shout!

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