Doctors – we all need them at times. Good doctors are there to help, listen and support us. And thankfully, there are many good doctors in the world. There are doctors who are always prepared to go that extra mile for their patients.
But unfortunately, not all doctors are good.
Bad Medical Advice From Doctors
Some chronic illness sufferers have shared their experiences with me on Twitter and some of their stories are shocking.
Some people have been told their condition is all in their head. Some advised to walk ten miles a day or have a baby to help incurable painful diseases. One person was told, “Well, you’re a woman, you need to expect pain.” And worryingly, one doctor made fun of someone who had been self-harming.
People shouldn’t accept bad advice or care from a doctor. If a doctor can’t help, we should have a second opinion. But rudeness, bad advice or laughing at us should never be tolerated.
I have good doctors now, but over the years, I’ve had some bad medical advice from doctors and heard some ridiculously stupid statements.
My Trigeminal Neuralgia Diagnosis Took Over 20 Years
Last week I had a story about my trigeminal neuralgia diagnosis published on the Pain Resource website. I had struggled for over twenty years with face pain before getting a diagnosis. I was told to put up with my pain. I was told to just take paracetamol. One dentist found no dental problems but told me my pain was my fault for not cleaning my teeth properly. I had cleaned my teeth as well as I could, despite the searing pain.
Why did I go undiagnosed for so long? Could it have been my fault? Had I not explained my symptoms properly? Or was I simply up against some bad doctors and dentists?
Ironically, after I was diagnosed by a good dentist and a rheumatologist, I was referred to a neurologist. He questioned the diagnosis. His reason – my hospital record was too thin.
It was thin because doctors and dentists had ignored and dismissed my pain and nobody had referred me to a specialist to have it investigated. He also failed to realise that I’d not lived in the area for long, therefore, it was a new hospital record anyway. So yes, it was thin.
I hadn’t received a diagnosis for over twenty years, then a doctor based his investigation on the size of a hospital record.
Too Young to Worry About Osteoporosis
In my late thirties, I went through an early menopause. I was concerned about developing osteoporosis. Women are more at risk of this after the menopause due to the lack oestrogen hormones. I was already at risk because of my inability to exercise due to my pain.
When I mentioned this to my then GP, I received a patronising look. He told me I was too young to worry about osteoporosis. I discussed it with another doctor in the practice a while later and received the same answer.
When I was forty, we moved house and needed to change our GP practice. I told my new GP that I was concerned about osteoporosis and her words were, “Yes, I agree. I’ll refer you for a DEXA scan to check your bone density.”
I Wasn’t too Young to Have Osteoporosis
It turned out I was right to be concerned. The DEXA scan showed I had osteoporosis. I’ve been on medication for it ever since.
I was Told that my Scoliosis was a Cosmetic Problem
I was ten years old when scoliosis developed in my spine. Whenever they discovered it, my parents took me to the GP. The GP sent an urgent referral to see an orthopaedic surgeon. The surgeon’s words were, “It’s only cosmetic and won’t cause problems.” He then said to me, “if you eat lots of Mars Bars, you’ll put on weight and cover it up.”
My parents trusted his words (apart from the Mars Bars part). He was a well known and respected orthopaedic surgeon. There was no reason to doubt him. And back in the 1970’s in Scotland, people listened and didn’t question doctors. There was no other information available. Local libraries wouldn’t have had books on a complex subject such as scoliosis. And obviously, the internet was non-existent.
Over the next few years, that doctor saw me regularly. My scoliosis changed noticeably and affected my pelvis, but still, he continued to say it was only a cosmetic problem.
By my mid teens, I was getting pain. He arranged for me to be fitted with an orthopaedic corset when I was nineteen. The pain was worsening – it certainly didn’t feel as though this was a cosmetic problem. Then one day, his words to me were :
“I don’t know much about scoliosis. Would you like me to refer you to see a specialist?”
It had taken him nine years to decide that he didn’t know much about scoliosis. Nine years is a long time for a young scoliosis patient. The damage is normally irreversible.
I was referred to a doctor who was one of the world’s leading scoliosis experts at the time. Unfortunately, he could do nothing for me. My Mum asked him if he could have helped me when I was ten. Understandably, he said he couldn’t answer because he hadn’t seen me then.
Scoliosis is Not Just a Cosmetic Problem
In my case, scoliosis has caused me to live with chronic, severe, disabling back pain.
My parents regretted not pushing for another opinion when I was young, but as I said, people didn’t do that back then. The chances are that the specialist might not have been able to help anyway. I was never angry with my parents – they had trusted a supposedly good doctor.
I don’t believe in wasting energy getting angry, annoyed or upset about something from so long ago which can’t be changed. But I have to admit that I often thought of his words, “only a cosmetic problem” when I had to retire due to my back pain when I was 28.
There are Good Doctors too
I have seen some good doctors and other health care practitioners. And many of them do go that extra mile to help me.
The GPs I have now work with me and are happy for me to raise ideas or ask questions. They don’t give me patronising looks or make me feel like a time waster. I’ve never been told by them to just put up with my pain and I’ve certainly never again been advised to eat mars bars!
They understand my level of pain and do what they can to try to help me and are quick to investigate problems when necessary.
Keep Searching for the Right Doctor
If you don’t have a good doctor, keep searching.
Acceptance of pain is fine. Actually, that’s healthy. But acceptance of bad medical practice isn’t right. Nobody should accept that.
Have you come up against bad advice or ridiculous statements from doctors? Please leave a comment below.
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