Earlier this month, Time magazine published a first-person account of a doctor having to deal with a challenging patient who came to him after having conducted some research via Google. The doctor’s description of his disdain for these kinds of patients, and this particular patient and her child, wasn’t very politically correct, which caught the eye of Tara Parker-Pope, who then wrote about it Thanksgiving week. Even with the holiday, the entry has drawn over 275 comments in a week’s time, suggesting Ms. Parker-Pope has really touched a nerve here. (Too bad Time doesn’t allow comments on its articles, as this discussion probably would’ve occurred on their website, instead of a newspaper’s — ah well.)
I couldn’t help but notice that this is a hot-button issue right now because so many more people are doing research on not only their condition or disorder, but also on the people whom they seek treatment for it from. I see nothing wrong with that in general. People should educate themselves as much as possible about their disease or disorder before seeing a doctor — that’s just a common-sense thing to do. And if you want to make sure your doc hasn’t been brought up on ethics charges? Again, I’m not sure why that’s a bad thing for most patients to look into.
But Dr. Scott Haig, the author of the Time magazine article, apparently thinks otherwise. He wants perfect patients, you know, the kind that listen to this authority and does what he tells them to do without question:
A seasoned doc gets good at sizing up what kind of patient he’s got and how to adjust his communicative style accordingly. Some patients are non-compliant Bozos who won’t read anything longer than a headline. They don’t want to know what’s wrong with them, they don’t know what medicines they’re taking, they don’t even seem to care what kind of operation you’re planning to do on them. “Just get me better, doc,” is all they say.
At the other end of our spectrum are patients like Susan: They’re often suspicious and distrustful, their pressured sentences burst with misused, mispronounced words and half-baked ideas. Unfortunately, both types of patients get sick with roughly the same frequency.
My reply to Haig? Guess what — that’s life. Not everyone is going to be this perfect patient. If you didn’t get in this field to help people, no matter how “difficult” they may be, then I’m not sure what you’re doing in medicine. Apparently you’d like only the perfectly compliant and perfectly “not too smart, not too dumb” patients.
So bravo to The New York Times and Ms. Parker-Pope for calling this one right. If you have the time, the comments on the blog entry are definitely worth checking out (for their entertainment value and widely discrepant viewpoints).