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Why Doctors Are Arrogant

For years I have read comments in online forums, websites, and emails complaining about the flaws in our health care system. As a physician, I can usually understand and often agree with the complaints. Some of the personal stories that I have read are truly heart-breaking. And when I recognize that the source of so much tragedy and pain results from government interference in the lives and health of my fellow citizens, the patriot in me becomes enraged.

But all too often, mixed in with these tales of woe are criticisms of a doctor or doctors who were rude, insensitive or closed-minded. Doctors are accused of having been brainwashed during their training to ignore more effective and less expensive alternative treatments. They are accused of ignoring the benefits of nutrition and prevention.

While I am sure many of these criticisms are valid, for certain physicians and in specific cases, I can't help but think that many of these stories result from a general misunderstanding of the physician's role and his perception of most day to day physician-patient encounters.

Most of the time (even when I am working in my family practice clinic and not the emergency room) patients come in with problems. They are looking for solutions, not advice.

I literally can't remember the last time a patient asked me, "Doc, how can I live a longer, healthier life?"

To try to explain this to patients, from the perspective of a physician, I have come up with a parable:

Physician as Firefighter

A fire breaks out in your home so you call 9-1-1.
The fireman arrives and asks "Where's the fire? Are there still any people in the house?"

You: "Well, its about time you got here, I called 9-1-1 SEVEN minutes ago. What took you so long?"

Fireman: "Sorry but two units were tied up with a brush fire. What floor is it on? Is anyone still in there?"

You: "You don't need to take my head off, I was just asking. I smelled smoke on the second floor. A few years ago I told my wife that we should probably get the wiring in the house checked because whenever I turned on the space heater..."

Fireman: "Excuse me, but ARE THERE ANY PEOPLE STILL IN THE HOUSE?!?"

You: "My daughter's bedroom is on the second floor but I'm sure she got out. She's a light sleeper. She's probably around back already. Hey! Where are you going? (You call as the fireman turns and runs into the house).

You: (running after the fireman) "Hey, I didn't finish telling you about the my pet dog, Fido. I think he's still in here someplace."

Fireman: (Ignores the comment. Finds daughter coming down the stairs and escorts her out of the house.)

You: "What about Fido? And you haven't asked about my expensive paintings. I don't want you using any water on the second floor."

Fireman: (Seeing smoke billowing from a second floor window.) "I'm sorry sir, I'll do my best. But if we don't hurry you could lose everything." (Starts to pull fire hose in.)

You: "Hey! I thought I told you NO WATER. My cousin had a fire in his house last year, just like this one and HIS fireman put it out with chemical retardant. And it didn't take him seven minutes to answer the 9-1-1 call either."

Fireman: "I'm sorry, I can't always use chemical retardants so I have to be ready to use the hose. Could you please stand back from the door?"

You: "You firemen are all the same. You come barging into a guy's home like you own the joint. Don't you know that I have property rights? This IS my home after I all."

Fireman: "You are absolutely right, sir. I just assumed that you wanted me to put out the fire when you called 9-1-1. Don't you?"

You: "Well, of course I do. I just didn't like your MANNER. Besides I was reading on the Internet that you could smother 87% of all house fires without firehoses by closing all of the windows and starving it for oxygen."

Fireman: (Looking incredulous) "Is THAT what you want me to do?"

You: "Well, we could try doing that for ten minutes at least. I read about it on the website of a fire CHIEF. He's got DECADES of experience and has put out HUNDREDS of fires using this technique. He's even written books about it. The only reason they don't teach his technique in firefighting school is because the instructors have all been bought off by the manufacturers of expensive fire-fighting equipment. They don't WANT fires to be extinguished cheaply and safely, it would ruin their profits."

Fireman: (Glances up at the flames now pouring from TWO second story windows. Assumes deer-in-the-headlights expression.) "Are you SURE about this? I really can't advise this. The longer we delay the harder it is going to be to put out the fire. If it grows out of control, you could lose EVERYTHING. Besides, your fire insurance carrier might not pay if they find out that you wouldn't let me use water."

You: (Looking disgusted.) "Well, I can see this is getting nowhere. You firemen all think you are God. Either that or you have been bought off. Go ahead, I guess there isn't anything I can do about it."

Fireman: (Sprints into building and puts out the fire.)

You: (The next day, complaining on Facebook.) "It took that fireman TWO hours to put out the fire. All of my paintings were ruined. It was water damage, just like I told him. Fortunately, Fido made it out through his doggie door, no thanks to HIM. And in all that time, do you think he told me ANYTHING about fire PREVENTION? Not a word. Not a word about smoke alarms or not smoking in bed. And he didn't even ask about my faulty wiring theory.
And to top it all off, he was RUDE. I can't wait to rate him on Angie's list!"

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This reminds me of the story

This reminds me of the story from the Darwin Awards. The guy was indignant towards the doctor because said guy was in a hurry to get to a meeting and the doctor was telling him he needs medical treatment because he was having a heart attack.

One thing I dont understand is all these people that go to doctors with every little perceived problem they might have. Especially those with colds. I was once in the waiting room and some middle aged guy came in and told the receptionist he needed to see a doctor to clear up whatever this was, while motioning to his face. This guy obviously had a cold or sinus infection, something that typically clears on its own(even faster if you help it)(now admittedly, he could have waited a while, but his attitude suggested entitled, not independant)
I had a sinus infection(from dust) not too long ago, and people were saying I should see a doctor. I was like why? Its only been a couple days, it will clear up on its own. It did indeed clear up on its own like I knew it would after a few days.

One of the best ways you can keep from getting sick is to wash your hands. I swear, people are so dirty. If everyone washed their hands, not nearly as many people would get sick(and I dont mean antibacterial soap). I can not say enough on how bad it irks me when I see people rubbing at their noses then proceed to touch alot of stuff or even not wash their hands before eating, or eating while touching stuff. I dont want your food grease and snot everywhere, keep it to yourself.

To climb the mountain, you must believe you can.

Exactly! Wash your hands

Exactly! Wash your hands often and you will fall sick a lot lot less. Simple things that most doctors will tell you but few will actually follow.

Let the downvoting begin! :-p

Let the downvoting begin! :-p

Mr. Spacehabitats, my sister is a PG in OBG and her hours are from 6: 30 in the morning to 8 or 9 at night. I am in the same town and she hasn't even time to meet me though we are pretty close, so I understand your parable.

Unfortunately Internet users who have found time to delve into every single conspiracy ever imagined by a schizophrenic mind lose their perspective of it.

That doctors have to work quickly and assimilate a vast amount in information in a limited amount of time seems difficult for them to grasp.

If they are looking for nutrition advice, why not go to a nutritionist? Doctors often skip meals and drink a ton of coffee to get by so they often don't make the best advisors on these matters either.

Before this disappears in a sea of red, kudos for putting up one of the most entertaining posts I've read in a long time :-) Will definitely share it far and wide.


you have never been sick or knew(believed) someone that was.

How did you get THAT from my

How did you get THAT from my post? :-|

I have been sick, even been in surgery a couple of times. Never did the doctor need to hear my life story or all my beliefs to cure me. A good bedside manner is a luxury but a necessity is competence and confidence. That is what I put a premium on.

Bedside manner can be left to the nurses. If you say something relevant to your treatment then it's something different, but talking about homeopathy and crystals etc will, understandably, and drive a doctor up a wall.

I'll bet if you

dug deep enough you would see that the best liked doctors are the ones who listen; are gentle, kind, and patient. Even if it is listening to nonsense sometimes. People are scared, lonely, and need nothing more than someone to take them seriously and validate them. Rude doctors can be excellent at their craft but most people can not see past the bad bed-side manner. That does not mean the doctor needs to pull punches - it is important to tell it like it is; lose weight, stop smoking, start exercising, stop eating crap.

I guess the key is how it's said - treat people like people and not just another name on a chart. Being a doctor is hard work. If you're in it for the money it can bring, choose another profession that does not deal with human beings.

Best ever movie that drives that point home is The Doctor with William Hurt. Good stuff. http://www.amazon.com/The-Doctor-William-Hurt/dp/B00008L3U4

The law cannot make a wicked person virtuous…God’s grace alone can accomplish such a thing.
Ron Paul - The Revolution

Setting a good example is a far better way to spread ideals than through force of arms. Ron Paul

I feel like this kitty,

except with physical symptoms.


Jefferson's picture

I had

an old friend/neighbor doctor explain to me one time when I was complaining about the lack of proactive care. He said "That is why they call it PRACTICING medicine, and you are called the PATIENT. You are supposed to be patient while we practice."

All too often the public is ignorant of how their own body works, and how many ailments can be prevented. They put these "doctors" on a pedestal which contributes to some of their arrogance. I will not tolerate a doctor who becomes frustrated with my questions. In this day and age, a person needs to take charge of their OWN health and even sometimes their medical care. Otherwise they might find themselves on 13-15 different "medications" and on an endless merry-go-round from hell.

A few years ago, I got an infection in the hospital from a surgery on my leg. MRSA. They gave me IV antibiotics for 3 MONTHS which is TWICE as long as the normal course. I remember having a discussion with one of the top infectious disease doctors at the time about colloidal silver and how it killed 650 different strains of virus, bacteria, and fungus. He chuckled at the idea and promptly touted his 27 years of experience, and how he wouldn't recommend it.

After several months of having no progress or even answers, I found myself sitting in the waiting room with two morbidly obese people who were both on shoe boxes full of different medications. It was at that point that I woke up, and broke free. (as best I could)

I got on the internet, began researching CS, found a company, looked at the independent studies, and had a 30 minute discussion with the CEO of the company who allowed me a one time wholesale order of whatever I wanted.
3 weeks later I went in to get tested and I was NEGATIVE for mrsa. I have been tested 5 times since and STILL negative. Long story short, doctors don't always have the right answers.

edit: The CS was used topically, not systemically. This is not meant as advice. It's just what worked for me. Antibiotics have their place, but I personally would avoid them whenever possible. They wreck your digestive system among other things.

Plenty of blame can but put on BOTH doctors AND patients, but not just patients.

Doctors for the most part, are now just lackeys of the pharmaceutical cartels via the AMA, and simply pill pushers. Most breakthroughs come from overseas or from areas where the AMA has no control.

When the only tool....

In the tool box is a water hose, that's what you'll use. But to be fair sometimes you ask doctors for preventative advice and they tell you nutrition has no effect on health.

SteveMT's picture

You are what you eat, and you are what you do, period.

Garbage in = garbage out. Common sese phrases are very true. Any doctor who says nutrition (and physical activity) doesn't matter is not worth your time/money.

Not THIS doctor

"you ask doctors for preventative advice and they tell you nutrition has no effect on health."

I'll give YOU some free medical advice, get a new doctor.

What? You say you can't because of your HMO?

See, now we are getting to the REAL problem.

The Virtual Conspiracy


the Doc.s I have seen admit that they only took 6 weeks of nutrition. But they claim it is all okay because we have the Internet now.

lots of suspicion on daily paul

the distrust of medications and medical procedures are pretty amusing here on daily paul.

they would probably refuse to have their appendix taken out

Do you work in the medical field or pharmacology?

or medical sales or drug sales rep?

Sad but true...

I had a Facebook friend tell me that she has Zollinger-Ellison Syndrome (ZES) but is trying to treat it without using prescription acid suppressors. She wants to treat it "naturally". In ZES a tumor secretes an acid-stimulating hormone that is so potent that they used to have to remove the stomach surgically to prevent multiple bleeding ulcers. She was complaining about all of the pain she was enduring (?!?!).

I tried to diplomatically tell her that she has rocks in her head.

I console myself with the hope that she probably doesn't really have ZES. Otherwise she would probably be dead by now.

The Virtual Conspiracy

SteveMT's picture

"Welcome to the [medical] desert of the real."

This is the reality of our worsening healthcare system. I'm also an Osteopath as you know, and all that I see all around me in Montana is an imploding medical system. Your parable tells the sad story about what faces people particularly in primary care. We want to prevent that fire from your story from occurring in the first place; there are too many houses that contain combustible materials. In other words, people who need information about how to take care of themselves, so they don't need to see us very often. By incorporating preventive care in my practice, I was told that I spend "too much time" with my patients. The system is screwed-down to the braking point, IMO. We need to see X-number of patients/day just to breakeven, and with some people, immediate solutions are sought/demanded immediately. I believe that we are in a no-win situation. This is the only profession where many don't want their children to follow in their footsteps and pursue the same occupation.

Hang in there, bro! I just think about what Ron Paul went through as an O.B. doctor. How did he do it? He's the role model that I look to while we're hip-deep in this mess. "Doing no harm" is becoming more difficult to avoid.

What is really sad and pathetic---

I am a clinical medical lab technologist and have turned in abnormal results to doctors and they have called me back and asked "What do you think it could be?" I am not allowed to make a diagnosis. I did not go to medical school. That is their job. I can maybe give them a hint, but it is their job. They get paid the big bucks to know or find the answer. I got put on warning for being a smart ass to a doctor by telling him he should know what he is doing and to ask a colleague, not a med tech. Doctors call all the time yelling at the techs for sending results that have been re-tested several times for accuracy and demand we test again because this patient has no history of such and such. It is getting worse every year. Doctors are getting lazier and ruder. The older doctors are the best and nicest.

SteveMT's picture

Agree with you, also.

I've seen some physicians just lace into nurses, lab-, and radiology- techs. First hand quote I overheard one day: "Stop thinking. When I want you to think, I'll let you know!"

Report these people is my recommendation. I cannot do much without you running the machines that give me the results. My daughter just became a Clinical Med Lab Tech, and your getting that certification was no easy task.

As an "old doctor", Thank you. (I think.)

And you are absolutely correct that it is NOT your responsibility to tell doctors how to interpret the results of tests THEY ordered.

If I don't know what to do with a result, I don't order the test.

You SHOULD let them know if there are any probable sources for a lab error (a sample was left at room temperature or it was a difficult blood draw). Or the sample was supposed to be fasting and you saw the patient down a Twinkie in the waiting room.

You should also be willing and ready to tell them what the normal ranges are. (Not all of us carry a book with normal lab values along with our cell phone.)

But if you think you have it rough, you should ask a radiology tech. They are constantly being asked by patients to interpret the x-rays they take. And it doesn't take a medical degree to see a broken arm. But they shouldn't be telling the patient what the results are anyway. And patients shouldn't ask.

The Virtual Conspiracy

We do all of those things.

We don't draw the blood, the phlebotomist does that for us. They are usually good about telling us if it is a difficult draw, but most times if it is, it is hemolyzed. All the results we send out have the normal ranges printed next to the test result.

Sounds like you didn't deserve a reprimand.

Doctors who lash out at their staff support aren't just arrogant, they're idiots.
Abuse has a habit of coming back to bite us, and not necessarily in the mystical Karmic sense.
We all have bad days and feel tempted to kick those that can't kick back. I think the worst I usually get is a little snarky. (Imagine that!)

A couple of days ago we were getting swamped in the ER. Since we routinely staff just one nurse I asked the nurse to call in her backup. She explained why she didn't think she needed to.

About ten minutes later the ambulance pulled in with someone who had taken an accidental overdose. When she told me she was too busy to call poison control I smiled and asked her to have the "other nurse" do it. She got the hint.

The Virtual Conspiracy