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I’ve always known that doctors lie. And this article from the New York Times confirms that doctors think it’s no big deal.

A few weeks ago, a second-year cardiology fellow told me that he had taught a first-year how to pull out a balloon pump.
“When we went in the room, the patient said, ‘You’re not learning on me, are you?’ And I had to lie and say: ‘No! He’s done this many times. We’re going to do it together. You get two for the price of one.’ That calmed him down. Then I had to talk the first-year through the entire procedure, pretending like I was explaining it to the patient.”

The cardiology fellow says, “I had to lie.” The author lets it go, with no comment.

Nearly every one of the 44 comments jumped on this quote. Some were doctors, saying they never lied. Most were horrified. A few pointed out that if you enter a teaching hospital, you should expect to be treated by trainees.

In big cities, I don’t know where you’d find a hospital that was not a teaching hospital. Sometimes you don’t have a choice. And you always have the right to refuse.

We have an image of used car salesmen as guys who talk loud, make promises they can’t deliver, charge outrageous prices for clunkers that don’t work, try to get you to buy things you don’t need, and sometimes tell outright lies.

Doctors raise their voices when people disagree with them. They make promises. Their terms and conditions require us to accept and pay for services we don’t need, including some that have been identified as useless and even potentially harmful.

The primary care doc I was forced to see when I injured my arm (I had HMO insurance at the time) told me with a straight face, “If you’d take these tests you could live another ten years.” When I declined the tests, as I was leaving, she called out after me, “Are you sure you don’t want bloodwork?” I was tempted to give her the finger. These days I refer people to Gilbert Welch’s book, Overdiagnosed.

Doctors routinely demand annual physicals, although research shows they don’t affect health outcomes.

Hospitals routinely demand cardiograms for pre-op tests, even though research consistently shows that they’re meaningless, with up to 80% false positives.

According to this source, the false positive rate is as high as 82%, with risks from follow-up tests as high or higher than the risk of heart disease. See this article for example.

Every hospital requires pre-op tests for cataract surgery although research consistently shows they are useless and healthy people should skip screening. Other research shows these tests are no better than simply taking blood pressure.

Any car dealer, used or otherwise, would get in lots of trouble for making claims and demanding payment for unnecessary services as a condition of service.

Maybe we should revise the expression to, “You sound just like a doctor.”