False Reporting

March 12, 2010 § Leave a comment

The CBC is declaring that a full 98% of Canadian family doctors have experienced abuse at the hands of their patients.  Of that, 75% had suffered “major abuse,” and 40% had experienced “severe” abuse.  This information comes from a report in the journal Canadian Family Physician. But a closer look reveals that this claim, that nearly all doctors have been abused, is close to bogus.  The researchers randomly selected 3,802 family physicians across the country and then sent out a survey.  Of those 3,802, only 774 responded, or 20.4%.  So the results are based on a 20.4% response rate.  A response rate that low comes close to negating the results, according to standards of social science research.

I haven’t read the original study, I’m responding to a media report of it.  Could be that the report in the trade journal says something different.  But the CBC is claiming that 98% of all family physicians in Canada have been abused.  Balderdash.  Here’s why: given that the survey was mailed out to doctor’s offices, that means that the doctors themselves had to take the initiative to fill it out and return it.  And, certainly, those who did respond, this 20.4%, were mostly likely those who have an interest in the issue.  In short, those who responded were those who had been affected by the issue, abuse.

Grandstanding like this on the part of the CBC is regrettable because it distracts from the larger issue, which is the fact that our doctors are being abused by their patients.  That is an unacceptable situation.  What is even more disturbing is that female doctors are more likely to suffer abuse from their patients than their male counterparts.

As our health system gets more and more overburdened, doctors and nurses, the front-line respondents, are the ones who take the brunt of the anger of their patients, frustrated by any number of reasons, from waiting lists to doctors being over-worked and unable to spend as much time as they’d like with their patients.

But the CBC obscures this with its fantastic claim that nearly every single doctor in the land has been abused in some, way, shape, or form by their patients.  It’s kind of like when that cop at O.J. Simpson’s double-murder trial was found to have planted evidence at the scene of the crime.  Over-reaching to make a point does nothing but detract from the issue at hand.

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