Is physician shadowing immoral?

Countless times as a patient both at Memorial Sloan Kettering and Weill Cornell in New York City, I have witnessed doctors arrogantly waltzing into an examination room and arriving not alone but with an entourage. Like Greeks bearing gifts, they arrived with something unwanted and threatening: medical students, interns, residents, and fellows. And not once, in all the many times that I have been subjected to this ignominious practice, was my consent ever obtained prior to the doctor’s arrival.

Some would argue that this practice is perfectly acceptable provided high school students and college students are not doing the shadowing. The idea that such young students could ever be permitted to shadow a doctor is utterly ludicrous. Even if a physician wished to have a resident or fellow observe a session with a patient, should they not in good conscience be morally, if not legally, obligated to first obtain the patient’s permission?

There are hundreds of teaching hospitals in this country that serve millions of patients. Are all of these patients supposed to voluntarily relinquish all vestiges of privacy?

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