Tough Clinical Decisions: Experiences of Polish Physicians

HEC Forum 36 (1):111-130 (2024)
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The paper reports results of the very first survey-based study on the prevalence, frequency and nature of ethical or other non-medical difficulties faced by Polish physicians in their everyday clinical practice. The study involved 521 physicians of various medical specialties, practicing mainly in inpatient healthcare. The study showed that the majority of Polish physicians encounter ethical and other non-medical difficulties in making clinical decisions. However, they confront such difficulties less frequently than their foreign peers. Moreover, Polish doctors indicate different circumstances as a source of the experienced problems. The difficulties most often reported relate to (i) patients (or their proxies) requests for medically non-indicated interventions; (ii) problems with communication with patients (or their proxies) due to the patients’ negative attitude, unwillingness to cooperate, or aggression; and (iii) various difficulties with obtaining informed consent. Polish physicians report difficulties associated with disagreements among care givers or scarcity of resources less frequently than doctors from other countries. The study’s findings provide support for the thesis that a significant portion of Polish physicians still follow a traditional, paternalistic, and hierarchical model of healthcare practice. Instead of promoting patient’s empowerment, engagement, and rights, they often consider these ideas as a threat to physicians’ professional authority and autonomy. The study leads to the conclusion that due to insufficient training in medical ethics, communication skills, and medical law, many Polish physicians lack the knowledge and competence necessary to adequately respond to challenges posed by modern healthcare practice.

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Author Profiles

Jakub Zawiła-Niedźwiecki
University of Warsaw
Bartosz Maćkiewicz
University of Warsaw

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