ARTICLE 15) The Doctor/Patient Relationship: Let's Scrap It.
Author: Donald S. Rehm

I have never liked titles, any titles, and it isn't because no one has granted me one. I wouldn't use it if I had it. My ego doesn't need it. They convey to the person using the title an aura of being better than everyone else in some way that is rarely justified.

One frequently hears guests being introduced on a TV panel this way: "Joining us today are John Reallysmart, holder of 20 patents in electronics, Robert Evensmarter, developer of an advanced electronic imaging device, and Dr. Very Moneyhungry, a practitioner of risky corneal surgery." Now, if the third guy is introduced using a title, why aren't the others introduced as Mr.? Or why not just use full names on everyone? Do you see the inconsistency here? Is the moderator so awed by anyone with a doctor's title that it must be introduced at the beginning of the conversation so we know that we are expected to use it? Why can't Very Moneyhungry also be addressed as Mr. even though he earned himself a doctor's degree? People who earn bachelor's or master's degrees don't get a title. What's so special about a doctor's degree?

I know of a person who claims to have been on an elevator once with Henry Kissinger. He said "Aren't you Henry Kissinger?" The reply was "No. I'm Dr. Kissinger." Whether the story is true or not isn't important because I have gotten the same pretentious answer from a doctor myself. But my reply was "Did you lose your first name somewhere? Maybe I can help you look for it." I don't put up with that "better than you" attitude any more. I never call anyone "doctor." Most of them don't deserve any respect and far too many are evil scoundrels.

And to illustrate the unfairness of it all, consider the attorney who may spend as many years in school as a medical doctor. The poor things have no title! Some of them try to create one by adding "Esquire" to their name, but it isn't quite the real thing.

I also don't like the word "patient." It conveys the same attitude of obsequious servility from the opposite direction. I am not anyone's patient. I don't belong to anyone.

Which brings us to the infamous "doctor/patient relationship", apparently some kind of common law marriage that must be considered as holy if we are to preserve the fabric of our culture. At least that's what the doctors want us to believe. Doesn't it convey to you the impression that the doctor is the seat of all knowledge and that the rest of us are privileged to sit at his/her feet and partake of that knowledge - that we exist to carry out the infallible instructions of the doctor?

The truth is that many people know more about their particular problem than the doctor does. It was recently determined that doctors only knew a little more about nutrition than their receptionists, except in cases where the receptionist had a weight problem. Then, the receptionist knew more than the doctor. In the important field of staying healthy through proper nutrition, doctors learn next to nothing. The Internet is a far better source of information on how to stay healthy, provided you look for information that isn't put there by the very doctors you need to avoid.

The truth is that you must constantly be on your guard against false diagnosis and treatment. Treating symptoms instead of causes is the main thing doctors learn in school. That is why a second or third or fourth opinion is so important. In the field of Myopia Prevention, (see Myopia.org), you could get 100 opinions and they could still all be wrong.

Think of people in Britain who have to deal with all those royal titles. And more titles are being created all the time. Rock stars and sports figures are now being "knighted" and called Sir! Maybe the Russians had at least one good idea when they started calling everyone comrade. Why don't we just call everyone citizen? "Citizen Smith, meet Citizen Jones."

I call for an attack on titles - all titles - starting with doctors. How? Try this scenario:

You: I want to make an appointment with Very Moneyhungry to discuss a problem.
They: Do you mean Dr. Moneyhungry?
You: No, I don't use titles. I mean just what I said.
They: Are you one of his patients?
You: No. I don't like to be called a patient. I consider myself one of his customers, just as I am one of my plumber's customers. I pay for a service at both places.
They: Can you be here at 2:00PM?
You: OK. How long do his customers usually have to wait past the appointed time?
They: I can't say.
You: Well, I'll be sure to bring a long book to read. What does he charge for 15 minutes of his time?
They: I don't know. That's up to the doctor.
You: Why doesn't he post his fees on the wall, like in my barber shop? Motels and hotels never post their rates either so that they can charge what they can get away with. Is that the reason?
They: I don't know. That's just the way we do it.
You: Would you go to a restaurant where there were no prices in the menu and you couldn't find out what the meal costs until you are presented with the bill when you leave? And then, if you don't want to pay that much they send it to a collection agency?
They: Well, this is different.
You: Not in my book. Go ask the doctor what he charges for 15 minutes of his time. I'll hold the line.
They: I asked him and he says he can't give you an answer in advance.
You: Tell him he just lost a customer. I'll find someone with a better attitude.

Ex-patients of the world, UNITE! Take charge of your own health. The doctor works for you and would be nothing without your money. You're the boss!

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