Monday, February 28, 2011

Question of the Week: Has Your Doctor Given Up on You?

A doctor examines a female patient.Image via Wikipedia
Last Friday I found an interesting article over at the Fibromyalgia Network website called Patient Rights & Second Medical Opinions. So I posted it on the Oh My Aches and Pains! Facebook page. Since the article talks about coping with a less than helpful doctor, I asked the question, "A doctor giving up on a patient? Well yes, this has happen to me. Has it happened to you too???"

When I got a heart-wrenching response, I knew I needed to ask this question here on my blog too.

Now I initially wanted to write about a doctor that gave up on me while I was struggling to get my mysterious chronic pain and fatigue worked up and diagnosed. But I decided I didn't want to go back and relive all the drama he caused in my life. Instead, I just wanted you to know that it has happened to me, more than once, and I coped by firing the doctor and searching for a better one.

I won't deny that finding a new doctor can be a pain in the butt. I also acknowledge that as the patient, I have taken the brunt of the negative fallout in these stressful doctor-patient interactions. I've come to accept that finding a new doctor is all too often a necessary step in getting good, quality health care when you live with chronic illnesses. I've also decided that I need to take advantage of grievance programs through medical institutions and medical licensing boards to deal with some of the unfair treatment I receive.

That said, what I really want to write about is how the true problem lies with the role assigned to and our expectations of doctors in our society. Consider that after our parents and teachers, theirs is some of the most respected and heeded advice we receive. We're taught to view them as the experts in all things medical and health care. After all, they take an oath to, among other things, apply all measures necessary to treat a patient, prevent disease and do no harm.

The bottom line: we put doctors on a pedestal. Which is fine, I guess, until something knocks them down...

Despite the plethora of ethics in the Hippocratic Oath, for all practical purposes there seems to be a loophole, because the beginning of the oath goes like this: "I swear to fulfill, to the best of my ability and judgment..." (For a real eye-opener, follow the link above and read the entire oath for yourself. The compare the ideals espoused by the oath to what really happens to you when you see your doctor.)

I've surmised that figuring out exactly what "the best of (their) ability and judgment" looks like is the job of every patient. Which means instead of blindly relying on their presumed medical expertise, we need to be keeping track and making notes each time we see our doctors. We need to decide if a doctor meets our needs and is practicing good judgment. Sure, we may not be medical experts ourselves, but that shouldn't stop us from saying no to medical care that is arrogant, disinterested, dismissive or unsympathetic.

Most of all, we need to learn how to not take it personally when our doctors' fail us. Clearly there is going to be some variation in what the "best ability and judgment" looks like across the entire medical profession. Not every doctor is going to be a good fit for what we need, both in medical practice and bedside manner. We need to be active in our medical care when it comes to exercising our choice of medical providers whenever we are allowed to do so.

So maybe what I am really asking you to share with me this week is: How did you overcome situations in which your doctor gave up on you? Leave a comment here or on the OMA&P! Facebook page with your thoughts, suggestions and encouraging stories.

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Emily said...

Having been sick since the age of 16, I have indeed come to realize that doctors are not gods and have definitely fired doctors.

In my experience, if a doctor gives up on you, they are not a good doctor, they are ignorant and too proud.

A good doctor is one who will admit that they do not know everything.

A good doctor is one who doesn't live by your blood work but by actually examining you and listening to you.

With that said, one of my worst experiences was getting a second opinion from a doctor in New York City. He was supposed to be great, highly respected, blah, blah, blah. This was right before I was diagnosed with Lupus.

He told me that my symptoms were due to the stresses of having a baby:-( He practically patted me on the head.

Between his bill, going into the city, having lunch, that probably cost me around $500. He did not take my insurance. That was probably one of the worst experiences.

Anonymous said...

I gave up on doctors. I just don't go. I get my natural thyroid through the Internet and live through all of the problems. I was diagnosed with Hashimoto's, Celiac (neurological), fibromyalgia, Hugh's and then I became Diabetic. I have other symptoms that are outside of these syndromes.

I have gone to holistic doctors, conventional doctors, osteopaths and acupuncturists. None could help. All but the acupuncturist gave up on me. The last one, an osteopath, sent me to another holistic MD. I never went. I am tired of the same tests done over and over. I am tired of telling them the symptoms, especially when they don't listen. The conventional doctors would get stuck on one thing. The last one was the diabetes.

I have become responsible to myself. I am very watchful of all aspects of my life and remain positive that I will figure it out.