Regarding the Oct. 30 letter, "Overuse of first names a sign of disrespect":

The writer describes the disrespect that he felt in a doctor's office when a young female staff member called him - a "CEO of a company," he noted - by his first name in the waiting room.

I'm not sure why he makes the point of being a CEO, but he apparently doesn't realize that health care workers are bound by a 1996 federal privacy law called the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act to protect a patient's health information. It is likely a violation of federal law to address a patient by his or her last name in an office waiting room. This would be tantamount to leaving one's Social Security number, AIDS status or past cancer history out in the open for someone else to see.

I agree that our society has often become too liberal. Several of my older patients still dress up to visit their doctor with a tie, jacket or freshly pressed outfit, but this is becoming less and less common. Many teenagers are texting friends during my examination or have their cell phones ring during a visit. If it is distracting, I politely point this out to them.

But the primary ethical principle that guides physicians in treating patients is that each individual is to be treated as unique and is entitled to treatment that is respectful of their human dignity. I try to make every patient feel special during our encounter and so do many of my colleagues. I go out of my way to shake everyone's hand (after washing mine) and look them in the eye as I introduce myself. Everyone in our office treats patients without regard to their age, race, religion or social status. That's how we spell respect.

Next time, if the author prefers to be called by his last name, then he should simply and politely let that person know. However, I think that the overriding notion here is that respect gets respect. When the author mentions his CEO status, identifies himself as a "customer," and incorrectly tells the medical staff what they should do, then he probably will not receive the respect he desires, but the respect he deserves.



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