Maternalism in Medicine | Elizabeth Horn

January 30, 2015 7:13 PM

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I am a physician, but I also consider myself a mother hen. When I have a census of patients, I think of them as little chicks, perhaps old roosters, clucking hens, tender capons. Some are old, some young, some have been chased out of the coop by an angry dog, caught in the wires and sent to me for care. Some may be bad eggs, but still deserving and in need of care. I have a maternal instinct and I embrace it; I think it makes me a better physician.

As a physician in training, I was taught to avoid paternalism or at least to use it sparingly in certain circumstances. Paternalism can be condescending. Assuming the patient does not know what is best, the paternalistic doctor makes recommendations without full explanation, discussion or negotiatio...

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