On Aug. 18, the Annals of Internal Medicine published an anonymous essay that exposes two horrific incidences of inappropriate behavior committed by doctors on unconscious patients.
In the essay "Our Family Secrets," an anonymous physician educator recounts a class discussion with senior medical students where horrifying stories of harassment came to light.
During the class, the author asked the students if any of them had something happen during their clinical experiences that they felt they needed to "forgive."
One medical student told a story about a surgeon violating a female patient while she was under general anesthesia for a vaginal hysterectomy.
Then the author shared a story from when he was a third-year medical student and witnessed a resident physician harassing a female patient after she gave birth.
The decision to publish this essay caused a heated debate among the editorial staff.
"Not publishing would be metaphorically dusting their bad behavior under the rug, and that wouldn't be right," Laine said.
But Laine stresses that it's important to remember that while these incidents are horrifying they are also, she believes, uncommon.
"Inappropriate behavior is a problem that occurs in all medical specialities and across all provider types, but the incidents in the essay are not common; it's at the extreme end of the spectrum."
She noted that they don't want patients to worry that this is something that happens all the time, but they do hope to create a discussion that empowers physicians who witness poor treatment or harassment to speak up.