By Dr. Arthur J. Sutherland III
The Commercial Appeal, May 1, 2016
MEMPHIS — Recent articles in local and national publications have documented increasing stress in health care for the providers.
Locally, Dr. Frank Masur wrote about finding a sense of helplessness in physicians that can lead to depression and thoughts of early retirement.
Nationally, ethicist Arthur Kaplan sees physician burnout as a public health crisis. He quotes a recent study from the Mayo Clinic documenting burnout rising from 45.5 percent of doctors in 2011 to 54.4 percent in 2014.
This is a real problem, since doctors who feel this way can commit more errors. They suffer from compassion fatigue from their own emotional issues. Four hundred doctors committed suicide in 2015, which is double the rate of the population average. So there is trouble for patients in having a workforce that is burned out, and trouble for doctors in terms of their own health and wellness.
Dr. Don McCanne, senior scholar for Physicians for a National Health Program, feels that this crisis of professional burnout also undermines the all-important physician-patient relationship.
A major contributor to burnout is the subversion of physician independence to the massive misdirected oversight interposed by public and private insurance bureaucracies that waste tremendous resources while creating havoc in our health care delivery system.
We need to understand that public policies that make health care worse are unethical policies. We need to expand and improve Medicare for All, a single-payer system that would bring health care equity and justice to everyone in the U.S.