Tuesday, July 29, 2008

I've diagnosed my problem, doc...

Today in the NYTimes, there was a short essay on how the doctor-patient relationship has deteriorated, leaving many patients feeling neglected and unhappy. I think most people on the street could tell you they have had a bad run-in with a physician. I know I have. I've had numbness in one of my toes for over a year now. Every doctor I was seeing at the time--Three, since I was pregnant and seeing a specialist--referred me to one of the other doctors, so I was left with no explanation except that it was pregnancy related. Well, my toe is still numb every now and then, so unless I've been chosen to bear the new savior, it's not due to pregnancy.

I've also had other troubles with feeling blown-off by doctors. They will practically laugh you out of the office if you have an idea that might be different from theirs. I've got Katie on Dr. Sears' vaccination schedule, and it's completely conservative, and many doctors won't even look at it. This guy is on Oprah, folks. He ain't no crackpot!

My biggest problem has been with doctor arrogance. We tend to worship physicians as if they are geniuses. Sure, a huge percentage of my friends who went to medical school are quite intelligent. But since I know so many--I went to Johns Hopkins where at least 50% of graduates are pre-med--I also know that few, if any, deserve the genius label. Many were just looking for prestige, money, or validation. Some were blindly following their parents' wishes. And a couple really liked people and wanted to help. When I look back on high school and the folks who are now practicing, I know that they are probably the ones who smugly look at patients as if they are mere peons. My college friends I know are hard working and are probably great, but I still wonder if they've bought into the whole system of entitlement. Reading about the pharmaceutical industry and how they court physicians with money and power, I can't help but feel it's difficult for doctors to ignore the praise.

While I think the work that doctors do is important, I don't think it's that much more important than the work of sanitation workers. I've made the argument for years that a garbage man makes an equal if not more significant contribution to the welfare of society than a scholar--i'm beginning to think the same thing about other professions. We need every last one of them and yet revere only a few.

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