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Monday, May 31, 2010

Doctors need to be questioned more

My mom said, "I'm paying my doctor good money, so I'm going to do exactly as he says."

My wife responded, "I'm paying my doctor good money, so he's going to do things my way."

Classic. I had an elderly patient recently. When I asked her why she was going to a nursing home she said, "Because that's what my doctor wants."

"So, what if your doctor is wrong?" I didn't ask.

So what if your doctor is wrong. It seems too many people, especially the elderly, don't seem to question their doctors. Consider the following questions:

1. Why do you want me to take that pill?

2. So, why do I need breathing treatments?

3. And what is the science behind that?

4. Is that your opinion, or have you read that somewhere?

5. You want me to do what?

6. I'm taking 20 pills. Are all these really necessary?

7. Look, there's no need for you to massage my boobs. How about if I find a new doctor?

8. Why are you oxygenating my newborn baby with 100% oxygen when all the science showed 10 years ago that this can lead to cancer later in life even on otherwise healthy newborns?

9. How about a second opinion?

It's not just patients who need to question doctors too, but people right here in the medical field. For fear of being yelled at, or because we get tired of the infamous, "I am not going to do that, Rick Frea!" we RTs and RNs tend to just do what we are told.

Yet that's exactly why doctors end up with unfettered power. That's how we end up with no protocols. That's why we end up with patients being on medicine they don't need, and having procedures they don't need. Or going to nursing homes they don't need to be at.

There's a good word for this: Enabling. Both patients and medical staff enable doctors to get away with anything they want. This breeds ego. Enabling breeds ego. Thus, doctors have become elitists. They have become totalitarian. They are able to do without being questioned.

Another classic example of this was my dad went to the doctor a few years ago, and my dad smokes 1/2 a pack every couple days and he drinks 2-3 per day during happy hour at his retirement facility. My dad was honest about this with his doctor.

The doctor said, "You better quit drinking. Drinking is about the worse thing you can do for your doctor."

"Thanks for the advice," my dad said. Later, dad told me this story, and he said, "Rick, shouldn't a doctor be more concerned about the smoking. He never said one thing about me smoking, yet he was all hung up to dry about my drinking."

"Dad," I said, "There's absolutely nothing wrong with you having a few drinks a day. If anything, you ought to quit smoking. Smoking is waaaaaay more likely to kill you than happy drinking the way you do."

"That's what I thought," he said. "He's a good doctor, though. He's just got this thing about drinking. I bet he's never been had a drink. I bet he's never been laid before."

Dad and I enjoyed a laugh.

The medical field is a well respected physician, perhaps even too well respected. I don't mean to knock this respect, but I think too many physicians go so long without being held accountable that they develop egos the size of watermelons, and they start to treat people like truck engines instead of people.

With the advent of modern great science, updated research and studies, newer medicine, and the Internet, there's no reason anyone should remain ignorant about the medical field.

It's time we do our research, and/ or at least question doctors. Most doctors are brilliant and honest, but no doctor's power should go unchecked by you and me.

Word of the Day:

Amorphous: Having no determined form, shapeless, unstructured, formless
The amorphous ego of the physician could be felt by all in the room.

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