Physician arrogance happens daily and I have, unfortunately, been on the receiving end of such treatment from doctors on too many occasions through the years. I am happy to report that I have established my current dream team of courteous and caring doctors who no longer talk at or talk down to me. But this has not always been the case. And it is not the case for many others.
As I routinely visit the online Sjogren’s Forum, I see daily posts from people describing the horrible, rude and dismissive treatment they receive from their physicians. Their symptoms are often minimized, ignored or left untreated. I have to say after reading about other patient’s negative doctor experiences for so many months and experiencing this treatment myself, it surely appears that there is an “arrogance” epidemic among physicians. What’s worse is that this rude and undeserved patient treatment can serve to shut a patient down from further seeking treatment for their condition(s).
Sjogren’s Syndrome is a very difficult autoimmune disease to diagnose. It can take many years to identify Sjogren’s Syndrome in patients. The symptoms behave like a disappearing act. One day a patient presents with joint pain; swollen glands and neuropathy, while the next day their symptoms are completely different.
Imagine taking your car in to fix a noise that you hear at different times when you are driving and you have had it for many weeks. When you arrive at the auto repair shop with your car, the car does not make the noise. (we can all relate to this) Does the repairman not believe you as a result? Does he speak in a condescending voice and tell you that you probably didn’t hear a noise and it was probably in your head? Does he offer advice by telling you just to go home rest and try to reduce some of the stress in your life? No. Because the auto repair shop is a “for profit” business, in the exact same way that a physician’s practice is.
Now granted, all people know how many years a doctor has attended school. We know that they have paid big bucks and made sacrifices to obtain skill sets that enable them to be called doctor and “expert” by the medical and non-medical community at large. But for a very large number of physicians, it seems that they have also earned a degree in arrogance. It seems also, that somewhere along their medical school journey they forgot the reason that they went into medicine. I am sure that some doctors just wanted a cushy salary. But I would assume that most doctors chose the field of medicine to help people. I mean, they have to take the Hippocratic Oath that says that they will do no harm to people. In my opinion, that should include the behavior of chiding the patient in a condescending tone; making the patient feel invalidated and not believed.
Making a choice to spend many years and dollars to attend medical school, does not give any physician the right to treat people with rude and sub-standard patient care. A person who is a patient, does not equal ” less than”. Regardless of one’s career choice and self-inflated and perceived status, people are people and should be treated with respect. I mean after all, they are the same people who pay your physician salaries.
If a patient is labeled with depression, perhaps their doctors have been contributing factors to the diagnosis. Unfortunately, I do not think that the rude behavior, once established, is likely to change. But we, as the patient recipients of such mediocre professionalism, can and should speak loudly with our feet.
Patients should never be put in a position that makes them second-guess their symptomology, pain and obvious illness. It is important, especially for those of us who live with chronic illness, to learn and to master our own medical advocacy. There are many compassionate doctors who do care & provide wonderful care to their patients. But it is up to us to be proactive in finding those rare gems.
Be strong and choose your doctors carefully!