Philosophical Question: Is it essential for doctors to be altruistic?

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Is altruism essential to be a doctor?

  • Yes

    Votes: 22 29.3%
  • No

    Votes: 42 56.0%
  • Only in theory

    Votes: 11 14.7%

  • Total voters
    75

MediKAT92

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Hi there! I'm currently a pre-med and have lurked around here for a bit. I am working on a philosophy paper, and wanted to get your opinion on the topic of altruism in medicine. I notice that there is a lot of emphasis on altruism, and how it is absolutely essential for a doctor to have it. I see lots of premeds at my school that are looking to make money, are volunteering for the purpose of pleasing admissions, etc. Don't get me wrong, they are good people, but they don't come off as altruistic. Even beyond the undergraduate institution, medical care is not free in this country. If you are unable to pay for treatments, you will be denied access! There are also under-served populations that continue to be under-served. If doctors are altruistic in this country, why is this the case? Please help! I know you can help me greatly with this paper. :D
 
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235788

diversity is good, right?


There is no perfect physician type. You need them all.

If everyone was overly altruistic, NPs would be during surgery and doctors would make 80k/year.

You're going to be a doctor, not a social worker.
 
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AllDaWEI

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Not at all. I never understood all this importance on altruism through the admissions cycle. What effects does someone's motivations for practicing medicine on you? If the physician is skilled and knowledgeable, then you will get the treatment you need. I also dont see how "altruism" correlates with bedside manner. For example, when I volunteered at the hospital, some of the elderly volunteers were just plain obnoxious! Their volunteering would count as an "altruistic" activity though.

As OP mentioned, it is difficult to get free healthcare in United States. A lot of doctors will not provide free care to patients. Interesting that underserved communities were mentioned too. Since every pre-med that interviews is so enthusiastic about helping the poor, then why are they still underserved?

Sadly, proving ones "altruism" is one of the biggest facades (for most, not all) in medical school admissions game.
 

vayntraubinator

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Pretty big topic to consider. You could approach altruism in medicine many different ways.

Being altruistic is a very awesome quality to have and is something I like to see in my circle of friends. But, there is a difference between being altruistic, and being taken advantage of or giving up everything.

Having a lot of work experience, I know that every person with a profession desires recognition and appreciation. You should know that as a Doctor your hard work will definitely be rewarded, but it's not necessary to give up this monetary appreciation except for certain situations according to your judgement and moral compass.

The PCP I shadowed would easily submit to free check-ups in his private practice for those who really needed it. Although, he'd have line drawn. One example of this line is that if the patient could not afford an appointment, but could afford cigarettes, then he would definitely not have a free appointment.

Dealing with people, there is is definitely a balance for feeding the recognition and appreciation through altruism and the money you feel you need to sustain a descent living.

Every Doctor should have at least a satisfactory pay for their hardwork (~70k) so that they and their family could live happily. Everything else besides the money in their work lives is what they love about medicine (except for the stress and time commitment obviously).
 

Neurosis

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According to my social psych teacher and textbook, legitimate altruism may not even exist. There are two main branches of argument for this: (a) people perform good acts to get a good feeling---that's not entirely selfless, therefore it isn't true altruism (b) people perform good acts to lessen their bad feeling (now that I think about it a and b are pretty much the same thing just worded differently)
and to answer your question No, doctors don't have to altruistic. Some people just have a passion/affinity towards medicine...for example I'm trying to go into psychiatry/behavioral neurology because i'm fascinated with the brain/behavior/cognition. I don't think that not having an entirely altruistic reason for going into medicine is necessarily a bad thing. More likely you won't be disillusioned about the profession (instead of just going in there thinking "I'm coming to help people", you'll most likely know what you're getting into because you've done your research)
 
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Neurosis

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diversity is good, right?


There is no perfect physician type. You need them all.

If everyone was overly altruistic, NPs would be during surgery and doctors would make 80k/year.

You're going to be a doctor, not a social worker.
Why is it that every post I read from you is: cynical, condescending, or grouchy?
 

Stumpyman

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According to my social psych teacher and textbook, legitimate altruism may not even exist. There are two main branches of argument for this: (a) people perform good acts to get a good feeling---that's not entirely selfless, therefore it isn't true altruism (b) people perform good acts to lessen their bad feeling (now that I think about it a and b are pretty much the same thing just worded differently)
and to answer your question No, doctors don't have to altruistic. Some people just have a passion/affinity towards medicine...for example I'm trying to go into psychiatry/behavioral neurology because i'm fascinated with the brain/behavior/cognition. I don't think that not having an entirely altruistic reason for going into medicine is necessarily a bad thing. More likely you won't be disillusioned about the profession (instead of just going in there thinking "I'm coming to help people", you'll most likely know what you're getting into because you've done your research)

Although this does make sense, getting a good feeling out of altruism isn't the only reason it's done. Someone might volunteer at a homeless shelter 5 nights a week and donate 100K to the shelter, purely just because this person wants to help the homeless people out. He/she may get a good feeling in result of this, but that wasn't the reason for being "altruistic" in the first place.
 

flatearth22

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Medical culture sucks because of the compulsory altruism. The idea that the patient is never wrong and that everyone deserves medical care regardless of lifestyle choices is such BS it's not even funny. And what sucks even more is that no one can critique it publicly without being ostracized. So you basically end up with a bunch of horrible strivers who from the time they were 5 years old decided that they had to join an extremely secure, high paying, prestigious profession but now have to pretend that they would have gone into medicine even if it paid $70k/year because they want to "help people" and not because their Asian/Indian/Jewish/etc. parents sat down with them and did a cost-benefit analysis.
 

AllDaWEI

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Medical culture sucks because of the compulsory altruism. The idea that the patient is never wrong and that everyone deserves medical care regardless of lifestyle choices is such BS it's not even funny. And what sucks even more is that no one can critique it publicly without being ostracized. So you basically end up with a bunch of horrible strivers who from the time they were 5 years old decided that they had to join an extremely secure, high paying, prestigious profession but now have to pretend that they would have gone into medicine even if it paid $70k/year because they want to "help people" and not because their Asian/Indian/Jewish/etc. parents sat down with them and did a cost-benefit analysis.

You couldnt be more wrong with your post. It's not $70k/year, it is suppose to be FREE. :smuggrin:
 
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lobo.solo

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Ideally yes. Medicine is both an art and a science, so in order to to impact your patient in the most positively way, you need to practice in the benefit of the patients's health not yours. Doctors that do this are great doctors and patients recognize it... I have seen it!
 

lobo.solo

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diversity is good, right?


There is no perfect physician type. You need them all.

If everyone was overly altruistic, NPs would be during surgery and doctors would make 80k/year.

You're going to be a doctor, not a social worker.

Doctors can be altruistic. Some surgeons that I have interacted with at my job are great in this way and patients love them. In the other hand, there is one particular surgeon that is an ******* and patients hate him. Ultimately, this hurts the patients because sometimes he has done minor procedures on patients that didn't benefit the patients at all, but it benefited him monetarily. He got in trouble for that. So there is that!
 
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235788

Doctors can be altruistic. Some surgeons that I have interacted with at my job are great in this way and patients love them. In the other hand, there is one particular surgeon that is an ******* and patients hate him. Ultimately, this hurts the patients because sometimes he has done minor procedures on patients that didn't benefit the patients at all, but it benefited him monetarily. He got in trouble for that. So there is that!


what?

Insurance companies hire physicians (often retired ones) to come up with reasons not to reimburse irrelevant procedures. I can't imagine this flying much anymore.


edit: yeah yeah yeah, cover your a medicine. But surgical procedures.
 

Neurosis

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Although this does make sense, getting a good feeling out of altruism isn't the only reason it's done. Someone might volunteer at a homeless shelter 5 nights a week and donate 100K to the shelter, purely just because this person wants to help the homeless people out. He/she may get a good feeling in result of this, but that wasn't the reason for being "altruistic" in the first place.
in an ideal world yes, this would be happening. However, what sensible person is going to spend those 5 nights or donate 100k to shelter because they are "good"? I believe if these people even exist, they are far and inbetween.
 

UrshumMurshum

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Is it possible to be able to follow algorithms and write on a pad and push patients out your door without altruism. Yes.

Is it possible to be a doctor without altruism. No.
 

lobo.solo

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what?

Insurance companies hire physicians (often retired ones) to come up with reasons not to reimburse irrelevant procedures. I can't imagine this flying much anymore.


edit: yeah yeah yeah, cover your a medicine. But surgical procedures.

You assumed a lot of things from my post... you are wrong. This was at a county hospital affiliated with a medical school. This place serves uninsured People....
 

notbobtrustme

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Just look at the number of doctors taking medicaid in each state. The number is well under 50%. Other than giving exams for free, you can't get more altruistic than that.
 

Drrrrrr. Celty

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No they don't. There is at least a neural reward involved.

Fundamentally, we need to remember altruism is a cultural ideal, not a real thing. We can be good, kind, and helpful but these things are laced with intent in human behavior, either by us trying to avoid feeling bad for not doing something or by us trying to feel good about doing something. Sure we can have altruistic tendencies, but being genuinely altruistic is just not something you see in behavior.
 

theseeker4

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Fundamentally, we need to remember altruism is a cultural ideal, not a real thing. We can be good, kind, and helpful but these things are laced with intent in human behavior, either by us trying to avoid feeling bad for not doing something or by us trying to feel good about doing something. Sure we can have altruistic tendencies, but being genuinely altruistic is just not something you see in behavior.
That, and it really boils down to a semantic argument. We value people who feel good when they help others. It is not true altruism, in the purist sense, since the motivation to do something always ends up being an internal motivation (since it is you choosing to do it, regardless of the reasons) with internal/personal rewards.

There is a big difference, ethically and morally, between someone who enjoys spending their time sitting around doing nothing, or figuring out the best way to get as much money for themselves no matter who it hurts, and the person who volunteers their time and/or money to help those less fortunate. They are both, at the most fundamental level, doing what they do because they want to and they receive some benefit from it. That doesn't mean, of course, that the former is morally equivalent to the latter. It just means that true altruism, sacrificing of self purely for the benefit of another, doesn't exist.
 

MediKAT92

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Great input! :) So what are admissions commitees looking for when they mention altruism?
 

theseeker4

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Great input! :) So what are admissions commitees looking for when they mention altruism?
A demonstrated desire to help others and a concern for someone other than yourself. We could argue for days about whether someone who helps others is truly "altruistic" but whether they help others because they feel good about it, or get absolutely no reward from it and entirely do it for another's benefit, wanting to help others is a noble goal and something doctors should have at least some of.
 
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