It goes back a long ways. I have had many oddities, and have sought professional opinions for some. Each and every time I get the same answer. "I dont know." They take the money anyways, even though they are of absolutely no help. They fail to even serve as a small source of reassurance, instead they just instill more unease. In contrast, I have found dentists to be unfailingly competent.

I don't like doctors, either. More than that, I don't like being a patient. It's so humiliating to be in a setting that is run entirely for the convenience of others, especially if I'm sick or in pain, and even more especially when they act as if I'm not even in the room.

I happen to like my very own doctor, but it's taken years to train him respond to my needs. Whenever I have to go to a specialist, I have to start the training process from scratch with a stranger.

{End of diatribe}

Trips to the doctors office fucking piss me off! As a woman I was unaware of the fact that everything has to do with my menstrual cycle! It doesn't matter what is wrong with me, they have to know when my last period was.

I broke my ankle.

when was your last period?

I keep having these wierd chest pains.

when was your last period?

MY FUCKING ARM FELL OFF!

when was your last period?

I really don't understand what bleeding for a week has to do with it. I mean I haven't gone through years of school, there's no piece of paper on my wall, but I know that my uterus is not connected to the pain in my knees or the fact that I get sinus infections during the winter! I guess I'm ignorant to the intricate working of my own body.

I went to see a surgeon a few weeks ago, and his intern comes to take all the bullshit notes that the doctor was too busy to deal with. The intern was a friendly looking chap, strong handshake, good looking kid.

Good afternoon Cliff, I am Dr. Hector Ybarra

So I think, good, we're being friendly, I'm a little nervous, don't want to cause any waves, so I smile and return his greeting.

Hi Hector, it's nice to meet you.

Hector gets a weird look on his kisser, like I'd just said something obscene. The room gets noticeably frostier.

You have trouble saying my last name? It's pronounced dock-ter ee-BARR-ah

I'm a little flabbergasted. I have no trouble saying his last name, I lived in a Spanish speaking country for a good bit of time and could get all crazy accent guy on his ass if I wanted to. I'm not trying to be overtly rude, this time at least. I'm silent for a couple of long seconds.

You called me Cliff, I call you Hector. If you preferred to be called Dr. Ybarra, forget it. The most I will do is Mr. Ybarra, and to get that you need to start with Mr. Lampe. What should we do now, Hector?

This guy is going to take something very sharp and make an incision in my body, and I'm giving him lip. But I can't help it. This is precisely the attitude of anyone in the medical profession that gets on my last nerve. I did not sign up for the ego tour. You are not God, you are a fancy mechanic, now shut up, fix me, and get on with life.

I used to think that doctors were wonderful. Hell, I wanted to be one. What could be more noble than being a part of the medical profession, where you help people every day and get paid good money to do it? Absolutely nothing of course.

Then my father got sick. He had cancer. He would have died from it if his heart didn't fail first, which I'm grateful for since there's nothing worse than a cancer death.

This experience convinced me that despite amazing technological advances, the medical profession is no better off than it was hundreds of years ago. We have antibiotics and immunizations now, and that's pretty much the extent of it. Back in the day, they used leeches to bleed people when they were sick. Today when people have cancer, they poison them, hoping that the poison will kill the cancer before it kills the person. I don't see much of a difference between chemotherapy and leeches.

They use kind, reassuring words to tell you that everything is going to be all right, that this is the problem and this is how to fix it. But this is just guesswork on their part, and many times the guesses are completely wrong. Here, we'll try this surgery. Oops, that didn't work, let's cut you up and take something different out. Repeat process until patient either dies or has miserable quality of life. Doctors are great if you break your leg, but if anything goes seriously wrong, consider yourself screwed.

OK.

First, I am not a doctor. I am, however, the husband of a US doctor, and I've seen my wife struggle through four grueling years of medical school, and through three years of an internal medicine residency, and now through a professionally significant but otherwise glory-free year as a chief resident. We have about $90,000 in debts from her medical education, and she has never made more than $40,000 per year. And before you say something about that, let me say that servicing her loans costs about $12,000 per year. After taxes, this leaves her with about $20k of her salary.

OK, now that I've opened my family's fiscal doors to you, let me comment. I would have been content to leave this alone, had all the writeups been simple bad-doctor stories. Hell, everyone gets stuck with a jerk for a doc every now and again, and I know enough MDs personally to testify that, yes, some of them are serious assholes. But I don't think that doctors are proportionally more jerky or assholic than the population at large.

The thing is, when you see a doctor, you're asked to become very vulnerable. Doctors can ask you questions that you'd slap anyone else for asking. This puts people in a weird emotional position. However, today's doc has something like 20 minutes to evaluate your symptoms and come up with a reasonable diagnosis and treatment plan. Pointed questions, whether or not they seem relevant to the patient, are an integral part of this task. If you are not menstruating and you complain about abdnominal pain, you could be pregnant, have a cyst, ovarian cancer, or the like. Even if you come in with a broken ankle, you will get asked these questions--if you have not had your period for a while, your doc may want to give you a pregnancy test before deciding what kind of pain medications to give.

My wife does not demand that you call her "doctor," despite her eight years of professional training. She does hope for (but not always receive), standard courtesy from her patients. I don't mean deference, I mean acting the way you would with anyone you don't really know. Relationships may develop over time, but jumping in and calling someone by their first name without permission is rude (and the doc above, as an intern fresh out of med school, may not have yet learned this lesson).

I will not address in detail the point that the medical profession has not advanced beyond leechcraft, save to say that many Everythingians would be dead now from smallpox, polio, cholera, tuberculosis, or any one of hundreds of ailments that Western medicine can now treat, were it not for the tireless efforts of doctors through the years. We can't cure everything, we can't even treat everything, but--dammit--we are better off medically than ever before. Perhaps another node...

What my wife does do is come home and cry about the tragedy she sees during the day--about the patient a family decided to remove from life support, the young man who discovers that he has testicular cancer, the woman who is in desperate need of psychiatric care but who refuses to seek it. She works 12 hours a day, at least six days a week. There is no glory, no real remuneration--just the knowledge that she went out, did her best, and maybe did a little good.

So what to do if you get a lousy doc? Tell him/her what you want out of a practitioner. If they can't deliver, go to another. That simple. You'd do the same if you had a lousy mechanic, wouldn't you?

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