Doctors go into medicine because they want to help people. They put in extraordinarily long hours during their training that no other profession is expected to endure.

Caring and compassionate physicians are challenged these days by a medical system that is badly broken. The amount of time a doctor can spend with a patient is limited and insurance companies may restrict treatments or challenge doctors’ judgment.

It’s no wonder that many doctors dread having to answer questions from patients who have consulted Dr. Google or who bring their own ideas about a diagnosis or treatment to the visit.

Many physicians don’t like to hear about drug side effects, either. They don’t like being reminded that something they prescribed might have caused harm.

One reader shared the following doctor-patient interaction: “My husband's a type 2 diabetic. Before going on insulin, he tried some new oral medicines, but he reacted badly to them. The endocrinologist he was seeing just paid attention to his blood sugar number, at the high end of ‘acceptable,’ and didn't care that the drugs blew up his weight rapidly to where it peaked at 320 pounds.

“He'd been a bit too heavy before the drugs, but when he started the medicines, his weight began to climb, and his health began to fail. She said he was ‘just an overeater’ and if he didn't lose weight she'd drop him as a patient.

“He asked her if he could try to control his blood sugar, cholesterol and blood pressure through diet and exercise alone. She told him she didn't think he had enough self-control. Finally, he snapped.

“At his final appointment with her, she and he had a shouting match during which she called him names in a voice they heard at the reception station. ‘Fat,’ ‘whiny,’ ‘argumentative’ and ‘non-compliant.’ She didn't know him at all as a person, didn't remember him from visit to visit and barely read his file. He'd gotten to where he was precisely because he was taking the drugs she prescribed and making every effort to be compliant. He's a very intelligent and diligent man, hard-working with a lot of self-control. He is NOT a whiner.

“She ‘fired’ him as a patient and he ‘fired’ her as a doctor. Now he has a new doctor, is on a low dose of insulin, has lost all the weight he'd packed on and is exercising regularly. He has energy and good health and enjoys life again. He may be able to control his condition with diet and exercise alone in the future, with his doctor’s help.

“If we were to run into his former endocrinologist she'd no doubt still see him as a ‘problem patient’ because he dared to stand up to her to save himself.”

This is not the first time we have heard about a doctor-patient relationship that went off the tracks. Even though a physician may find a patient annoying, there is no excuse for shouting or name-calling.

Patients know that doctors have valuable education and experience to contribute. Doctors also need to acknowledge the role that patients must play in their own care. If a medication causes uncomfortable side effects, a physician should not dismiss them as unimportant.

Like all human relationships, doctors and patients do best when there is mutual respect and shared responsibility.

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  1. Penny

    Many years ago a Dr. put me on Prednizone for allergies and other medical problems. I took 7.5 grains daily for about 20 years. Then I had a series of steroid injections in my spine for back pain. The ill effects were so numerous and severe I decided to get off steroids completely.
    My Dr. didn’t believe I could but I did. Earlier this year my rheumatologist gave me prednizone (2.5 grains per day)for arthritis pain. I took it one week and my arthritis pain got better but my fibromyalgia pain got worse.
    Now I’ve developed asthma and my Dr. offered me a cortizone shot. I refused then I went to my orthopedic surgeon who had replaced my left knee. My other knee is hurting so he suggested a cortizone shot. When I refused he got very huffy and criticized my use of Vicodin for pain, without even asking how much I took (about 1 per day). I’m considering firing him as a Dr. too.

  2. RD

    I was sick for 1 month with Bronchitis and then Pneumonia. After 1 month I developed a cough that wouldn’t stop whenever I lay down to sleep or rest.
    My doctor kept telling me it would clear up and that it was residual from the Bronchitis/Pneumonia. X-Rays showed no problem with my lungs. The cough was so bad that I had to sleep at the kitchen table with my head on the table, because when I lay down I started coughing again.
    This went on for another month, my doctor was made aware of the intensity of the cough, he was very sympathetic and gave me cough medicines which only mildly helped. The cough was so violent at times that I pulled muscles in my chest and it became very painful to cough.
    I finally spoke with my brother who is a physician in California and he said it sounded like Asthma. I took an over the counter asthma medication and almost instantly the cough started to subside.
    Now my doctor knew that I had Asthma when I was a child, although I hadn’t had an Asthma attack in years, it was part of my medical history, but he never connected the dots, nor did he recommend I see a pulmonary doctor.
    When I found out it was asthma, I switched doctors immediately, the new doctor treated the asthma and the cough disappeared. I really liked my old doctor, he was sympathetic and I trusted him, but he didn’t help me nor did he suspect another condition when the cough didn’t go away or check my medical history. The moral is if your doctor isn’t helping you, get another one who will. Don’t get married to your doctor.

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