To the editors:
I am writing in regards to Bryan Miller’s cover story, “Why Are Doctors Such Jerks?” in the July 10 issue.
Ms. Miller was definitely right in saying that “Everybody has a story.” I’ve been working in close contact with doctors for a numbers of years, mostly in hospitals (I’m not a nurse). I have come to judge doctors on their personal demeanor which includes how they interact with peers, staff, and their patients. The two doctors mentioned in the article, “Dr. God” and the “down-to-earth pediatrician” fit the profile of many I’ve encountered over the years. I’ve also come across doctors who throw temper tantrums when they don’t have their way immediately, doctors who are very condescending, and one I know in particular who seems to get a “kick” out of relaying all of his patients’ personal and medical history to me. (Talk about doctor-patient confidentiality, not this guy.)
I’ve also had the misfortune of being a patient. I spent hours in the emergency room of a Lincoln Park hospital and was virtually ignored until a doctor that I knew came to visit me whereupon I was suddenly showered with attention. Many of my friends have emergency room horror stories.
In my observation, I have found the rudest doctors to be foreign-born. They become impatient and upset when you ask them to repeat what they have said because their English is unintelligible. It’s even worse when you get to hear it on a car phone!
I really don’t want to sound like I’m bashing doctors. I know quite a few that are extremely nice but I discovered that we view the medical field and being a doctor differently. I questioned a friend who is an intern as to whether or not he’d read the article. When he told me no, I proceeded to tell him about it. I barely got past the title of the article. The title alone infuriated him and he quickly launched into his litany of “people just don’t understand” what us doctors go through. His argument was that they have to pay for years of school, work over 100 hours a week and get paid little or no money (when they’re residents), and that no one else would want to work and deal with people from all walks of life, from criminals to aristocratic know-it-alls. He said that an established doctor can afford to be “arrogant” after what he’s been through. He did agree with me that there is no reason whatsoever for a doctor to be rude to a patient but that was it. He went on to say that no one ever wants to hear the doctor’s point of view and that the whole article was probably generalizing and stereotyping doctors.
Needless to say my friend and I reached a moot point on the issue as I’m sure Ms. Miller’s article did for a lot of people.