© Dr. Rajas Deshpande
“How much is your experience, doc? Have you ever seen any cases like this?” she asked. She was accompanying her father who had Parkinson’s Disease, quite common all over the world.
Many hilarious and abrasive retorts came to my mind:
‘Do you ask such questions about the pilot or driver when you board a plane or bus? , Do you ask such questions when someone absolutely inexperienced is made a minister of important portfolios like health, defence, environment etc.?’ If you can have faith in them, why cannot you trust your qualified doctor?© Dr. Rajas Deshpande
However, being on the doctor’s side of the table, I could not allow myself losing patience so easily. I chose the most professional answer, forcing a smile: “I am practicing since 25 years, over 15 as a Neurologist, and I have seen over two lac thirty thousand patients till now. Almost every Neurologist sees an average of 30-40 patients per day”.
When the rural / illiterate populace asks these questions innocently, I am never offended, but if it is the literate suspicious kind who treat manners and etiquette as an ‘optional’ part of communicating with the doctor, I feel just like when someone spills my ice-cream. It is difficult to connect with a paranoid literate, however hard one tries.
Apparently satisfied with my experience, she shot her next google bullet: “Can this happen because of his low Homoglobin? I read it on a blog.”
“The correct term is Hemoglobin”, I told her, “and its low level does not cause Parkinson’s”.
It was over 45 minutes since they entered, I had replied to every point on the question paper that they had prepared from a Googlesearch syllabus. The next patient must be already angry now, I thought.© Dr. Rajas Deshpande
“How can you be so sure that this is Parkinson’s Disease? What’s the proof?” Fired she.
“There are many diseases where there are no proofs of diagnosis, some can be proven, most are based upon the doctor’s clinical judgement. Sometimes quite costly tests are required to prove what is an obvious diagnosis. You are welcome to obtain a second opinion” I replied.
“Can his Parkinson’s be the side effect of the knee surgery done eight years ago?” She.
I now issued a DNR (Do Not Resuscitate) order for my gasping patience.
Most doctors know the simplified versions of how to explain the patient in layman language about the common diseases/ disorders. Every type of case requires a lot of reading and actual handling / treating to gain insights about that condition, something that is impossible to explain exactly to the patient / relative, especially because they do not know the basic concepts, organs, their functions etc. What even the brilliant medical students take repeated readings and many case studies to understand well, cannot be simplified enough to explain to all and sundry.© Dr. Rajas Deshpande
Add to this: every patient even with the same diagnosis is different, needs an individualised approach, and no google guidelines or statistics can replace the doctor’s wisdom in making a treatment decision especially in complicated cases. To make the most accurate decision and to explain it is a doctor’s duty, but the understanding quotient of the patient or relative cannot be the doctor’s responsibility. Medicine is so complicated, that even the most experienced doctor in the world cannot say he knows everything about any single medical condition.
The more you attempt to educate some literates, the deeper in a quicksand you enter. Because they are not satisfied with the fact that the doctor is making the best effort to educate, but look upon this as an opportunity to question the knowledge and wisdom of the very expert whose opinion they are there to seek!
They try and catch words and cross question as if it is a legal argument.
“You said swelling: show me where is the swelling?” most common question.
“Well, it is called Inflammation in medical language, there is no accurate translation for that word even in Hindi, hence we commonly use the word swelling. It may not be a visible swelling”.© Dr. Rajas Deshpande
It is not always the fault of doctor’s ability to communicate, it is often the over-expectation that one can understand everything. It is laughable that even those some whose life is a mess, who are failures in their own chosen paths try and argue about medical diagnosis and decisions with highly qualified doctors.
However profound a doctor I may think I am, there are so many things I do not understand: politics, finances, many people’s behaviour, mathematics, government, etc., and I am ok without ith not understanding most. However I do not have the audacity to ask an expert in these fields / professor / CA whether he / she has enough experience.
But with a doctor, these liberties are becoming rampant now.
“I think he has convulsions because of his spondylosis” one halfpant+crocs combo tried to punch a new hole in my knowledge recently.
“Let me decide that” was all I replied, rather than explaining how he was beyond wrong.
The shorter you keep it, the sweeter it remains. I would rather save and use my time for those worried, panicked patients who have enough faith in my abilities, who understand mutual respect, and who will have at least this insight: that the doctor knows best how to treat patients.© Dr. Rajas Deshpande
Of course I am aware that there are some doctors too, who initiate rude conversations, do not respect simple etiquettes, and are quite difficult to connect to. Most patients even when offended by rude doctors, kindly choose not to react although they carry home a bitter feeling. Every medical student, every doctor must be taught in the earliest parts of internship about the code of etiquette and mutual respect while dealing with any patient, and only then expect the patient to follow it too.
Coming back to this lady, I wrapped up the session by telling them to follow up after a month.
“Can he continue to take his three large pegs of rum every night? He cannot sleep otherwise” she asked.
“In my 25 years of practice, I haven’t met anyone whose health improved with alcohol. Do please google that.” I gave her the dose she had begged for.
© Dr. Rajas Deshpande
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