Chronic Illness Articles

July 13, 2009

10 Reasons When it Makes Good Sense to Fire Your Doctor

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by Lisa Copen

We will never find the perfect doctor, as they are all human and none of them are perfect. It comes as no surprise to most of us that they call their profession “the practice of medicine.” One of the leading causes of death and injury in the United States is medical mistakes.

The Institute of Medicine calculates that, due to medical mistakes, anywhere from 44,000 to 98,000 people actually die in hospitals in the U.S. each year. This is more than from motor vehicle accidents or breast cancer.

Regardless of whether you are generally healthy, or live with a chronic illness, you still need a physician you can trust. Though an occasional small mistake may occur, it is especially important that you have a doctor who is eager to be part of your medical team for both short-term and long-term treatment.

Are there some sure signs you shouldn’t listen to your doctor and you should seek a second opinion, or maybe even shop around for a new physician? Definitely!

1. Your doctor does not listen to all of your symptoms or ask questions about them. He is quick to write down his interpretation when you have not fully been able to explain yourself.

2. Your doctor is determined to prescribe medications that have just been approved by the F.D.A., even though you are hesitant about trying something new. He doesn’t explain what the medication will treat, and why it’s important for your condition. He doesn’t explain short or long term side effects or any plan to get you off of it. Promotional items for these medications are visible around the office, from notepads to clocks.

3. Your doctor seems to know a lesser amount of information about your condition that you do. You often feel like your appointments are just times when you show up and inform him of your well-being and what is new about your condition, and he takes notes.

4. Your doctor appears to lack confidence about his ability to care for you effectively, seldom giving you medical advice or directions. Instead, he seems to tell you to do whatever you believe is best or asks, “Well, what do you think we should do in this case?”

5. Your doctor is quick to order tests or procedures that could impact your current health or your chronic illness in a negative way. He forgets that intrusive procedures that may be minor for some people could cause set backs in your illness. The best physician always keeps your whole body and condition in mind, not just the part he specializes in.

6. Your doctor seems to give you that look like he is humoring you. When you describe something you read, or ask a question about a new treatment you have heard about, he looks at you with skepticism and a smile and then writes some notes. It feels condescending.

7. Your doctor isn’t open with you about the medical records he has kept about you. When you request copies of your records, he may be willing to fax them to another physician but seems to try to avoid you getting them into your hands. One reason it’s vital to be aware of what is in your medical records is in case you submit an application for disability aid at some time and social security disability review doctors wish to examine your records.

8. Your doctor is never available when you need him. When you have an emergency he cannot get you in for an appointment immediately. Your prescriptions aren’t refilled on time. He doesn’t call you back when you have an urgent situation and must page him.

9. Your doctor is doubtful that you are having the severity of pain that you describe to him. He is hesitant about prescribing you pain medication, even though your pain level justifies it and you have proven to be a responsible patient with your medications.

10. Your doctor is never open to consulting other medical professionals or faxing his notes over to your other physicians. He thinks he can solve all of your medical needs and feels threatened when you want to consult with another source, specialist, or someone else on your medical team.

A good doctor will listen to you as much as possible, take good notes, explain medications, and make you feel like you are part of your medical team in treating any conditions or symptoms you may have.

We may never find the perfect physician, and we may visit a few doctors who have been referred to us before we find the best fit for our medical needs and a good personality fit. But don’t sacrifice your well-being simply because you are afraid of hurting the feelings of a doctor by leaving him and seeking your care somewhere else.

Read Lisa’s newest book, Why Cant I Make People Understand? Order at Subscribe to a great weekly ezine HopeNotes and download free 200 Ways to Encourage a Chronically Ill Friend. And tune in to Lisa’s weekly podcast at Hope Endures Radio at the web site. Lots of support is available.

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  1. Thank you! This is so true. We recently had to switch rheumatologists because the old one refused to discuss alternatives to a medication he prescribed and we couldn’t afford. Not to mention the standard four hour wait at each appointment.

    Comment by Young Wife — August 26, 2009 @ 1:55 am | Reply

    • That is just awful. I am of the opinion that your Dr., Rd. whatever health person you are seeing works for you and not the other way around. Our medical professionals should definately listen to what we have to say. They may be the professionals but we are the one who live in our bodies and know the best. Best of luck to you in your situation.

      Comment by Cammie — September 6, 2009 @ 10:41 pm | Reply

  2. Thank you so much. I have had ALL these experiences. My back doctor was voted best in the state of Connecticut but I always feel as if he’s too busy to see me or hear me and he is quick to dismiss me and tell me it is not his problem and I need to follow up with another specialist. It is very frustrating. If it comes down to back surgery, he is the best but I don’t like how I am dismissed.

    Comment by Carol — September 24, 2009 @ 1:00 am | Reply

  3. This is reaffirming to hear. I have interstitial cystitis, which is kind of rare, so most doctors know less about it than I do, and get impatient or skeptical (I think because doctors used to believe it didn’t exist). I guess I got used to feeling like that’s just the way doctors are and I just have to just accept it. It’s just nice to hear someone say that it’s not the way it should be.

    Comment by Jess H — October 8, 2009 @ 7:20 am | Reply

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