Latest headlines


The External Parts of the Male Reproductive System

The reproductive system of both males and females are specialized in function and that they only work with the specific gender they are given to.  While the female reproductive system is more complex as it houses the environment a fertilized egg will grow into, the male reproductive system is in no way a simple one as well.  Perhaps, the most visible difference of the male reproductive system to that of the females is that the male have an external protruding structure.  This external structure is situated outside of the body and consists of the penis, the testicles, and the scrotum. Read more…

Publishing info on dead soldier was unethical, MD concedes

Dr Kevin Patterson (right) has admitted to acting unethically and unprofessionally and has been disciplined by the College of Physicians and Surgeons of British Columbia for publishing a graphic magazine article about his experience treating soldiers in Afghanistan.

In the article, published in Mother Jones magazine, Dr Patterson vividly described and gave the name of a Canadian soldier who died in a shooting that took place inside NATO's Kandahar base.

The Canadian military, which was investigating the killing and has since laid charges against another soldier, considered bringing criminal charges against Dr Patterson for releasing classified information without permission but eventually relented.

The disciplinary decision (PDF) from the College of Physicians and Surgeons of BC consists of a written reprimand and requires Dr Patterson to take courses in ethics and professionalism, to pay $5,000 in costs to the college, and to donate the $7,000 Mother Jones paid him for the article to charity. The punishment has been publicized across the country, from Dr Patterson's local Nanaimo Daily News to the Canadian Press and CBC News. "I'm glad he did admit it," Kevin Megeney's mother told CBC News. "We were shocked at the article. It was very graphic."

Dr Patterson's admission that he acted unethically stands somewhat in contrast to a statement he made to me shortly after the article appeared in print in summer 2007, when he seemed to defend his decision to publish the soldier's name and to describe his dying moments in detail. "If the public is to get a sense of the price being paid on our behalf by these young men and women, it is necessary to face with open eyes the grotesque nature of war trauma," he wrote to me in an email. "The recent disengagement and fatigue of the public with these matters is itself grotesque."

As a journalist, Dr Patterson acted not just ethically but admirably. But as a physician -- as the College argued, and as he seems now to admit -- his ethical obligations changed. Could Dr Patterson's admission cause a chilling effect in his and other physicians' writing and reporting? I hope not. Dr Patterson and other doctors will surely realize that the circumstances that led to this outcome were unusual and limited in scope. Nevertheless, in the disciplinary decision is a good lesson for doctors who write: "Dr. Patterson has assured the College that in any future writings based on medical scenarios, or in any future works of journalism or fiction, he will not include the identities of patients or any information that could identify patients."

Also, let me add: don't breach the terms of your confidentiality contract with your employer.

Get Canadian Medicine news by email or in an RSS reader


  1. sharon29 January, 2009 9:21 AM

    This is a very interesting article on the passions, talents, and commitment of the humanitarian perspective.

    In one discipline( medicine)the "action" infringes upon the rights of another.

    In one discipline (journalism)the "action"is designed to personalize and put a human face on the tragedy of war.

    This case profiles the depth of commitment the physician has to the individual patient ( an intimate and binding trust)and how strongly governing bodies seek to use that bond as a "control" mechanism.

    It would be wonderful if the reason was the patient but I suspect the reason is to prevent the ultimate/? inevitable breakdown of commitment between patient and doctors that necessitates the control of "association" beyond membership advantages.

    For those, like myself,that expect confidentiality from physicians, clergy and lawyers I am happy to look at their own "performance contracts" and sign for release of information .... perhaps doctors should consider that ( I am sure they do them for the television reality medical shows).

    A good "ethos" must be broader than the perspective of the individual regardless of professional title or arena of operation.

    For myself, my motto is" if you cannot be bought you cannot be sold" .
    This eliminates "owing your soul to the company store"


Newer Post Older Post Home