Bad, Bad Doctor... No Cookie for You!


Signs that you may have been referred to a bad doctor:

1. He/she shows zero compassion;

2. He/she has not read your file before your appointment and has no idea why you’re there;


3. Gives you bad information or misinformation.

Because of my breast cancer history, I’ve accompanied a few friends to their appointments. Either for consultations with their surgical oncologists or to their G.P.s to hear their results, mostly to listen and see if everything they’ve said seems normal and sounds okay. I’m not an expert. Not even close. I have learned a few things, though, from my own experiences. And while I usually don’t write blog posts motivated by fury--I’m an easygoing person most of the time--on this day, I’m seeing red.

My friend, recently given a diagnosis of invasive ductal carcinoma, was given a referral to a surgeon. We waited in the exam room for half an hour after she’d been called. Her doctor was evidently running a little late. No big deal. After he introduced himself with a weak handshake and minimal eye contact, his first words to my friend were: “What is your problem?” Not a good way to start, especially when someone has had such a bomb as a cancer diagnosis dropped on them. When she informed him, “I have breast cancer,” he picked up her file and quickly skimmed through, after which he took a quick four- or five-question history from her. Then, without giving her any information on her tumor stage or prognosis, asked: “What do you want to do?” without first giving her any options.

I suppose I should mention that I did insert myself into the discussion at this point saying: “Shouldn’t she have all of the information first before she makes a decision?”

The appointment went downhill from there. He at no time showed compassion whatsoever for my friend, who will definitely be going through surgery and possible follow-up treatment for her breast cancer. At this point, though, until she sees a medical oncologist and gets a clearer picture of her situation, she won’t know exactly what kind of surgery she’ll have, although she is leaning in a certain direction. We both questioned why this appointment had even been scheduled. The whole thing seemed like a waste of time, frankly.

I am appalled that this surgeon, who has a decent resume (and yes, I looked him up online before the appointment) took no time to familiarize himself with my friend’s case beforehand and expected her to make life-changing decisions on the fly. His lack of respect for her shocked me. To him and to any other doctors out there who are lacking in bedside manner, let me say this: If you can’t at least fake concern for your patients, do us all a favor and go into research where you can snuggle up with your microscopes and slides.

When I returned home, upset about the inequality built into our healthcare system, I told Steve everything. We got on the phone with my friend, and he urged her to call the person in charge of her managed healthcare plan--coordinator, case manager, etc.--and demand to be assigned a surgeon who will take her case and her health seriously.

Now I want to send all of my own doctors bouquets of flowers and boxes of chocolates.

To anyone who reads this: Please, don’t be intimidated by bad doctors. And if you don’t feel comfortable fighting for yourself, take someone with you to your appointments who can.

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