Whither Privacy? Physician Shadowing in an Age of Moral Bankruptcy

Amazing Things are Happening Here.

— Motto of Weill Cornell and New York-Presbyterian

Countless times as a patient both at Memorial Sloan Kettering and Weill Cornell in New York City, I have witnessed doctors arrogantly waltzing into an examination room and arriving not alone, but with an entourage. Like Greeks bearing gifts, they arrived with something unwanted and threatening: medical students, interns, residents, and fellows. And not once, in all the many times that I have been subjected to this ignominious practice, was my consent ever obtained prior to the doctor’s arrival.

As there are experienced and inexperienced doctors, there also experienced and inexperienced patients. And as I have logged quite an impressive array of hours at NYU, Lenox Hill, Weill Cornell, and Memorial, perhaps it is fair to say without boasting that I am one of the former. And it has been unequivocally clear to me for quite some time, that it is profoundly unethical for a physician to invite other people to observe a patient’s session with their doctor, and to do so without first obtaining the patient’s consent.

Some would argue that this practice is perfectly acceptable, provided high school students and college students are not doing the shadowing. The idea that such young students could ever be permitted to shadow a doctor is utterly ludicrous. Yet even if a physician wished to have a resident or fellow observe a session with a patient, should they not in good conscience…

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