Abusive behavior test: Would you say same thing to a subordinate if that person's spouse was present?

LETTER — Posted May 9, 2005

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Regarding "Bully case verdict a warning to doctors" (Article, April 18): This article brings much-needed attention to an old problem. Abusive behavior by doctors is behavior that should simply be considered unacceptable, period. The tantrums thrown in hospitals and offices have been tolerated by residents, nurses and other staff for far too long. These acts are indeed bullying, as they are often directed at people who are perceived as being powerless to respond.

The only problem with a situation like the one described in your article is that the lawyers are being used to handle the problem. This is a problem most effectively, and correctly, addressed via the state medical boards and the criminal justice system.

The time has come for physicians to stop tolerating such behavior in their ranks, and for subordinates to know and be able to exercise their rights in circumstances of abusive behavior. Let's keep the "civil justice" (i.e., monetary gain) lawyers out of this problem. To make it simple -- don't say anything to an employee/subordinate that you wouldn't say to them in front of their spouse.

Paul Berger, MD, Clinton, N.C.

Note: This item originally appeared at http://www.ama-assn.org/amednews/2005/05/09/edlt0509.htm.

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