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Most people agree it would be stressful to be a doctor. Regardless of whether the statement is true, this does not give a doctor the right to treat patients rudely or insult nurses and other health care professionals. Unfortunately, the incidence of abusive doctors appears to be on the rise.

Many nurses complain of being ignored or insulted by doctors who say they know better. Often times, this arrogance can be dangerous for patients. The New York Times provides and example of how this arrogance can impact the patient’s health.

It was the middle of the night, and Laura Silverthorn, a nurse at a hospital in Washington, knew her patient was in danger.

The boy had a shunt in his brain to drain fluid, but he was vomiting and had an extreme headache, two signs that the shunt was blocked and fluid was building up. When she paged the on-call resident, who was asleep in the hospital, he told her not to worry.

After a second page, Ms. Silverthorn said, “he became arrogant and said, ‘You don’t know what to look for — you’re not a doctor.’ ”

He ignored her third page, and after another harrowing hour she called the attending physician at home. The child was rushed into surgery.

“He could have died or had serious brain injury,” Ms. Silverthorn said, “but I was treated like a pest for calling in the middle of the night.”

When nurses are afraid to speak up about alternative treatment measures, the quality of a patients care decreases. When a doctor believes he or she knows best about what the patient needs, despite what other health care professionals are saying, this needlessly endangers the patient. An arrogant doctor can and does increase the likelihood of medical malpractice.

Nurses are not the only ones being ignored by doctors; they often disregard their own patients. Many doctors simply tell patients to do things without adequately explaining what the diagnosis is why it is necessary to take the recommended treatment. This information is valuable to the patient and can help ease the stress surrounding treatment.

It should be noted not all doctors are guilty of being rude, insulting, or not listening to their patients. However, the doctors who do exhibit this type of behavior make it necessary for standards of behavior to be developed and enforced. The American Medical Association has a rule, supposed to go into effect January 1, 2009, which would help to curb disruptive doctors. There are issues with enforcement of the rule, but the message is clear: abusive doctors should not be something patients and health care providers have to deal with.

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