I recently commented on another blog (see commenter Wustl07) about privacy and the dangers of imbalances in disclosure. There are still a few people who still wrongly disagree with my perspective, and although I will admit my viewpoint is highly idealistic, that does not mean its value should be dismissed.
Health care in particular is still an area where huge asymmetries in disclosure exist. Medical knowledge, and especially doctors’ professional information still remain bottled up away from the public, and without full transparency, the forces of accountability are unable to drive the profession to fulfill its responsibility to the people. The patient offers up a detailed history and transparency, but where is the doctor’s “professional history?” In the relative absence of real evaluations for continued competency this is an even bigger deal (don’t judge this link by its title, it discusses an interesting solution).
The “profession” in its arrogance still believes that the public is far too ignorant to comprehend medical knowledge and make educated choices (if that is the case, it is because we have done a poor job sharing our knowledge with the people). Plenty of “ethicals” make that argument while speaking about a patient’s right to autonomy and informed consent out of the other side of their mouth. They do not understand that without transparency, you can achieve little more than the illusion of choice.
Imbalances in disclosure is not just detrimental to the public; in the long run this will also have a negative effect for doctors. We are starting to see it already. The autonomy of health care professionals, allowing freedom to treat and care for patients in the best manner possible, is derived from public permission. Without the trust and permission of the public we begin to see greater involvement of insurance companies, and government in the profession (both of whom have even less accountability and transparency) and an erosion of professional autonomy. Ask your friendly neighborhood physician who has been calling the shots in medicine lately?
I want to expand the current discussion on intellectual property rights in medicine, and transparency in health care. Leave a comment (don’t be an anonymous coward), or chat it up with me if I am logged in on Meebo. That way everyone can see and address all sides of the issue, and maybe I can win some hearts and minds while I am at it 🙂