Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Why don't doctors show more respect for their patients ?

Two of the commonest complaints patients have about their doctors are:
1. He makes me wait for ever and ever
2. He never explains what is wrong with me and what he is doing and why

I think these complaints are just symptomatic of the fact that some doctors just don't respect their patients. While these doctors can be great at providing VIP care to VIPs, unfortunately they fail to extend this courtesy to all their patients.

It's true that the doctor-patient relationship is one of unequals and some doctors like being on the pedestal. After all, the doctor is the one who is the expert; he is the one who has all the information; and he is fully clothed !

You, on the other hand , are sick and scared; confused and unsure of what this illness means to your health and wellbeing. You find it difficult to make sense of all the medical jargon he throws at you; and are scared to ask questions, because he is so busy and there are so many other patients waiting. Even worse, you are half-naked in a flimsy gown which is designed to take away your dignity !

Because doctors are so busy and have so many patients to see, they are often likely to be curt and abrupt; and because their patients do not understand the technical minutiae of their superspecialty, they are forced to "dumb down" and talk to their patients in simple terms they can understand. This is likely to give them a superiority complex; and because most doctors learn medicine in busy charitable hospitals, where patients are poor and completely cowed down and unable to question their authority, some doctors never lose their arrogance. The only consolation is they treat everyone with disrespect - their staff , assistants and other doctors, not just you !

After all, if all your patients look upto you as their saviour, this is likely to go to your head - who are you to argue with their high opinion of you ? Doctors need to remember that we are all ignorant - it's just that the areas and depth of our ignorance can differ !

Patients need to be respected - not just the rich and powerful, because they can easily take care of themselves. Good doctors are especially careful with the poor and the illiterate - they need his protection and courtesy far more !

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