StudioTulsa on Health: Doctors, White Coats, and an Ongoing Debate in American Medicine

Nov 17, 2015

On this installment of StudioTulsa on Health, we speak with Dr. Philip Lederer, a physician at Massachusetts General Hospital and Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston. Dr. Lederer also writes about medical and health-related issues frequently, and one of his primary concerns as a writer comes down, quite simply, to two words: white coats. Dr. Lederer is actually a leading critic of those coats, which seem to be universally worn by doctors and health-care professionals, and his criticism stems from the fact that said coats are often covered with pathogenic bacteria...bacteria that can potentially transmit infections to patients. Recently, he wrote an article for The Conversation, an online journal, entitled "It's Time for Doctors to Hang Up the White Coats for Good." As he writes in that piece: "You wouldn't want to be cared for by a doctor who doesn't wash his or her hands. You wouldn't want to be operated on with instruments that weren't sterilized or stay in a hospital room that wasn't cleaned regularly. Why would you want to be treated by a doctor wearing a white coat that hasn’t been washed in a week? Many white coats are covered in bacteria...they are dirty.... Doctors are still doctors whether they wear a coat or not. And even if white coats inspire trust in some patients, whatever theoretical benefits the coats may have aren't worth the downsides. There is no harm in avoiding white coats, but there could be danger in wearing one. Primum non nocere. First, do no harm."