Longwoods Blog

From Toronto Life, print edition.  Click here for the full article

By Jan Wong

When I was pregnant and working as a foreign correspondent in Beijing, my obstetrician suggested an amniocentesis test for Down’s syndrome. Afterwards, I was told to call in three weeks for the results, by which time I could already feel the baby’s first kicks. “There’s a problem,” the nurse said when I phoned, adding that the doctor was out. She advised me to call back in an hour. I hung up the phone and burst into tears. Worst-case scenarios overwhelmed me. Did “a problem” mean I’d have to terminate the pregnancy? Did it mean this, my first pregnancy, would be my last?

One hour later, I dried my eyes and phoned back. “Everything’s fine,” my doctor said. I was too relieved to complain about the nurse. Eventually it dawned on me that all she had meant by “problem” was that the doctor was out.

I recalled that experience in the wake of several new studies about miscommunication, patient outcomes and the widespread lack of empathy among health professionals. One study, published this year in the Canadian Medical Association Journal, found that oncologists fail up to 90 per cent of the time to respond to emotional cues from their patients …

From Toronto Life, print edition.  Click here for the full article

This entry was posted on Monday, August 8th, 2011 at 11:34 am and is filed under Longwoods Online.