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January 2014

“Eehhh… What’s up Doc?”

Much like Bugs Bunny’s classic line – what’s up with doctors? Apart from their rates…? (cheap shot, I will try to restrain myself) Don’t get me wrong, we need ‘em. Fact. And, as they themselves will tell you - so fast it’ll make your head spin, “When the chips are down and you’re lying in an E.R. somewhere at ‘oh-dark-hundred’, I’m all that stands between you and the great beyond!” Truth. “I ain’t arguing, doc – honest injun!” That said and having, hopefully, now stored up enough brownie points to get me through my next angioplasty without a little ‘oopsie’, allow me to phrase just one teensy-weensy, yet nonetheless pertinent question to the assorted doctors of the medical fraternity at large. “How come is it that, seemingly, a whole bunch of you seem to think that a medical degree comes with the built-in right to treat your patients like dirt?”

You heard me correctly doctors. The rest of us will all now allow sufficient time for the guilty among you (I never said I was talking about all of you, so calm down those of you who are not guilty of ‘patient abuse’) to further puff up your already inflated egos and prepare your bluster and bombast. This could take a while – it would seem that some medical qualifications come with the extra-curriculum subject : “New and Creative ways to waste your Patient’s Time” – so we will wait… And yes, I have heard the teeth-gnashing, the chest-beating and plaintive wails of “We are un-appreciated!” and “Do you know how long I had to study and how much it cost before I qualified as a medical professional?” and, not to mention the old chestnut “You are actually very lucky that I have made time to see you – I’m very busy, you know!” Really? And the rest of us, obviously, are not. Obviously.
Did you ever call the fire brigade when your house was burning down to have someone tell you (with a world-weary sigh) over the ‘phone to “Take your hosepipe, aim at the base of the flames and if that doesn’t work, make an appointment with reception.”? Did your accountant ever look down his or her nose at you and say, “I could explain it to you but I’m afraid you wouldn’t understand.”? Perhaps your lawyer has brushed you off with a throw-away line, “It’s just lawyer stuff, don’t worry about it, everything will be fine.” when you were facing 25-to-life in the big house? Well then, you’ve been ‘doctorised’.

My point, however, doctors, is not necessarily to just have a “go” at you. (although I will admit to relishing the rare opportunity to say what I – and many others – think of your behaviour without risking life or limb) No. Rather, I am attempting to get you to see the flip side of the coin. I’m trying to get you to understand what it’s like to be the average, bog-standard (paying) patient. Your patient. And yes, I know that we are often demanding, whiney, self-pitying and pathetic. But we are also who you signed up to treat. Warts, smelly feet, sniffles, imaginary ailments, lumbago, arthritis, schizophrenia – the lot! We are human beings. We come to you when we are ill. We come to you when we are afraid. We come to you when we are weak and defenseless. We need you to help us. Not make us feel worse. Please, cut us some slack. We might not have much self-respect left and our remaining pathetic shreds of dignity may well be clutched tightly to our fearful bosoms, but we’re still human. Just like you.  

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