Firing Patients


Under the Hair Dryer

The irony of the Information Age is that it has leant great credibility to uninformed opinion.

(Michael Crighton)

A patient was once referred to me for an opinion about her elevated blood pressure. After a comprehensive evaluation, I started her on a medication, while diligently asking her to come back in ten days to assess her tolerance for the pill as well as to check its efficacy. She came back as planned and sat in front of me in the consultation room.

I asked her how she was doing to which she replied:

  • Terrible. And why did you try to kill me?

I was a little startled by her blunt brutality and said:

  • What happened? Did you have a bad reaction to the drug?
  • No, but my friend who sits next to me at the hairdresser said that the medicine you gave me was a dangerous poison.
  • And how would she know that?
  • She looked it up on the Internet.

Composing myself, I proceeded to inform her that this particular drug was selected both for specific as well as for ancillary reasons and that for years it had already been commonly used safely by millions of people. I also wanted to know why she thought a doctor would purposely try to harm her, and why she thought that her friend was more qualified than me to render a medical opinion.

Then I picked up her chart, walked around to the front of my desk, stood in front of her, handed over all her records while suggesting at the same time that she should take the data and obtain the rest of her medical care from her friend at the beauty shop. I proposed to her that while sitting together under the driers she and her friend could pass some of the idle time by looking at the chart, analyzing it, conferring about the case and finalizing its management.

I also told her she did not ever have to come back, that the chart was hers to keep and there would be the added bonus of no charges for her visit with me on that day.

As a parting word, I then stated that if I found out who her friend was, I would have to seriously consider reporting her to the New York State Office of Professional Medical Conduct for practicing medicine without a license.

As the woman started to sputter a flabbergasted rebuttal, pathetically attempting to change tactics by effusively going from offence to defense, I took her by the wrist to gently escort her out the front door.

Unfortunately, in the modern era of medical practice, this type of encounter has become a prevalent way of life for the physician. There is frequently some person or some relative behind the scenes who is dispersing well intentioned but misguided advice, completely out of context, because of a belief that the job is simple, or can be done with a boilerplate set of instructions, which then logically follows an easily established diagnosis: Feed a fever. Starve a cold.

However, these same people would probably not even remotely think of telling their plumbers or their mechanics how to fix their toilets, pipes, V-8 car engine timing chains or carburetors.

Beside the inane allegories or anecdotal tales of disease, cures and outcomes, I also have no doubt for sure that more than one professional career or reputation in general has been ruined by the gossip that wafts and floats like aerosolized Cobra venom between the chairs that sit underneath the hair driers in the salons or beauty parlors scattered every few blocks apart and found in every corner of the world: The Walk- in Clinics of lethal gossip and uniformed opinion.


Hair Dryer

The hare-brained chatter of irresponsible frivolity


Photo: Google images

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