From the New York Times today comes a short piece from a doctor (okay.. a psychiatrist…) that lets us in on a bit of a secret– doctors are people too.
I knew this outside of the world of medicine having grown up with my father, the doctor, but one thing I’ve learned all too well since being stricken with an incurable illness over these past five years is how human doctors are in the practice of their own profession, which I thought, for some reason, I thought doctors were above. Not sure why. Perhaps it is the rigor of medical training, the seriousness of the profession, or my liberal-arts education that enabled me to avoid even one math class, let alone biology that made anyone who tackled science much more super human, I guess.
But now that I’ve spent my share around hospitals and doctors as a patient for the past five years, ironically, the first five years my father has not been with us, I have a new appreciation for the subjectivity of doctors.
In his article, Professor Richard Friedman says quite bluntly that doctors don’t like it when patients elude their clinical skills and therapeutic cleverness.
It’s a new concept for me, as I literally have never been significantly ill in my life until now, but what I have found is that doctors, like anyone else, want to be successful at what they do and for that that means curing the patient.
When you have an incurable illness, or one that’s hard to cure, a category in which most CNS disorders fall under, you have a recipe for frustration, and it’s why you have both a great deal of grasping for any indication of success, and a quick denial of symptoms when they don’t fit the typical pattern.
My current doctors are truly a superlative group and I’m blessed, but it was not always that way, and initially, much of the blame I placed upon myself.
I once had a neurologist literally say to me:
“You have migraines? Are you sure. That’s not consistent with your MRI.” In other words… “No you don’t” and I was referred to a cardiologist for tests. (Which only proved my heart was fine.)
A number of patients get this same type of response when they complain of pain, a symptom that is difficult to measure, difficult to cure and legally, difficult to treat as many drugs that treat pain are controlled (and sometimes even illegal, except in California).
Point being, that many people assume that doctors assume they are god-like. The truth is more likely opposite.
It is a stressful job where life and death is a legitimate outcome at the end of each day. It’s natural to want to “fix” the “problem” they encounter each day, and it’s to be expected that some people, under that stress, would become frustrated and begin to blame the patient when their treatment does not cure their diagnosis.
It’s actually human, which really isn’t an insult, honest; but it does give patients a license to insist that their symptoms are legitimate.