Thursday, November 19, 2009

Germ Warfare

The Wall Street Journal is now America's most-read newspaper, so when they put a story on the front page, it must really be important, like today's headline: "Nothing To Sneeze At: Doctors' Neckties Seen As Flu Risk." It says that several hospital are considering banning neckties because they are so rarely cleaned, despite dangling "perilously close to sneeze level." The British Medical Association has already gotten rid of its requirement that doctors wear ties, and the AMA is considering following suit.

Frankly, I don't care whether my doctor wears a tie, as long as he sees me within five minutes of my arrival in the office and doesn't make me spend 45 minutes sitting on crinkly exam table paper.

But if you do away with the tie, what about the lab coat? How often does that get washed? Doesn't it go on a hook at the end of the day, then get worn again the next morning, full of whatever germs it previously encountered? And how about that shirt the doctor put on this morning and wore while she kissed her microbe-ridden children goodbye?

This is a slippery slope that ends up with a naked physician forced to take a "Silkwood" shower before seeing every patient (note to esoteric movie-reference fans: if you prefer a more Dennis-Miller-ish analogy, replace "Silkwood" with "The Andromeda Strain").