Our physicians are supposed to be here to help us, to counsel and guide us through some very difficult medical circumstances. And we hope they do it with some sensitivity. But sometimes you hear:
• “You’re too old and you’re very, very high risk; you should a) use a surrogate; b) adopt; or c) forget about it.”
• “To tell you the truth, I don’t know what’s wrong with you; maybe we should check and see if you have a pituitary tumor.”
• “I know you’re only 25, but you DO have high blood pressure.”
• “Of course you can’t get pregnant; you’ve got PCOS.”
• “You have prostate cancer. Got to pick a treatment. Doesn’t really matter which one. How do you like your eggs cooked?!”
Regrettably, these are all actual quotes from an assortment of physicians in Los Angeles, California – statements so horrifying they tend to get burned into your brain, even if they happened 20 years ago.
Lately, I’ve been encountering a lot of reports from people whose doctors are insensitive, rushed for time, unwilling to explain, overly clinical, or just plain lacking in knowledge about the details of a patient’s condition or diagnosis. Teenagers, young adults, and the newly diagnosed are among the most vulnerable to these types of comments. I’ve been subject to many of them myself, as you most likely have been at some time or another.
How best to deal with a statement that leaves you in shock, hurt, and feeling overwhelmed, vulnerable and scared?
1. In the moment (if you can), call your doctor on it. Point out that you aren’t receiving enough information to feel comfortable with what you’re being told, or that your feelings were hurt, and you’re feeling confused.
2. If you just want to escape that doctor’s office as quickly as possible, then get out, get in your car, get home, and have a good cry.
3. Talk to a supportive friend or relative and invite him or her to go with you to your next appointment. And if that means booking a second appointment for a consultation in the doctor’s office (not when you’re sitting on a table in one of those miserable gowns that never fit), then book a consultation appointment, take a list of questions, and take an advocate with you.
4. Post on a chat forum, blog, or other Internet resource so you can get some virtual hugs and suggestions for how to approach the next appointment.
5. Consider – seriously consider – changing doctors if you are consistently treated badly. Every doctor has an off day, or a less-than-perfect way of expressing some critical fact, but you deserve time, respect, sensitivity, and the answers to all your questions.
If you have questions and would like some empowered answers on how to respond to your doctor, please feel free to call or text me at (310) 625-6083.