Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Handy Doctor's Guide of Stupid Things to Avoid Saying

Don't get me wrong, I trust and like my doctor. Otherwise I would find somebody else. But there is an appalling number of stupid and cruel remarks related to me over the past few years that fellow patients have heard from their doctors. These patients and their loved ones are often bitter about these thoughtless wounds, and as you read some of the remarks below, you will understand. (Note, these are paraphrased from the original sources.)

The reassuring physician, answering a patient's question about whether he would adjust to a new medication: 'You will be dead before your body gets used to it.'

The reassuring physician II:
'You have Parkinson's, but at your age something else will pick you off before it becomes a major problem.'

The careful observer:
'Come back next month, you are no worse than the last time I saw you.' In actuality the person in question was so much worse he was nearly immobile.

The blithe optimist:
'Let's give this new medication a try, there will be no side effects.' The patient suffered more from the new meds than from his Parkinson's Disease.

The cheery prophet, on being informed about a patient's positive mood and symptomatic improvement following exercise: 'That'll disappear in a few years.'

The gimlet-eyed skeptic: 'That's not a real tremor, you are making your leg do that.'

Others have told me of being given their diagnosis through a burst of laughter, of being given the shove test by several doctors without a word of explanation, and of being locked up by a crew at an emergency room, accused of taking drugs, and told that they were going to remain locked up until they were ready to tell what they had taken.

I am grateful for the hard work of smart, dedicated people who have mastered the techniques and knowledge that keep me functioning at the level that I maintain. I appreciate the difficulty of a general neurologist who must treat everything from migraines to MS. And I can imagine the chronic frustration that must come from being forced to manage the decline of people you wish you could cure. Throw in the many failings of the health care system as we know it here in the U.S. and I can see why both of my parents, one a surgeon and the other an anesthesiologist, discouraged their children from a career in medicine.

I grant all that. But it will take someone smarter than me to understand why people who are enduring what can't be changed should be subjected to additional pain that can be easily avoided.


Anonymous said...

Well said!
It took me two years to find a neurologist who would take me seriously when I first began exhibiting symptoms of Parkinson's before I finally received a diagnosis. Most of them treated me as if I didn't know what I was talking about until I started throwing around medical terms (I'm a Registered Nurse) - then they started to fumble over their own words and deny the possibility of PD because of my age - I was 36 when the symptoms started and 38 when I was finally diagnosed.

Last year I ended up in the ER from a gall-bladder attack, and the attending physician was reviewing my medications; when he came to the PD meds he said "these are for Parkinson's Disease, why are you taking them?"

"Probably because I have Parkinson's Disease," I replied. I didn't think he could have asked a more stupid question if he tried. I was wrong, and he didn't even have to try that hard before firing off the next question...

"Why do you have Parkinson's Disease? You aren't that old..."

I was so mad, if I wasn't doubled over from the gall-bladder pain I could have kicked him.

Peter Dunlap-Shohl said...

"I was so mad, if I wasn't doubled over from the gall-bladder pain I could have kicked him."

Is it too late to go back?

Thanks for reading!


Anonymous said...

Ha Ha, you guys are funny...seriously, the physician needs to be kicked!