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An Open Letter to Dr. John Doe

Dear Doctor Doe,

I know you will never read this letter, and that even if you did, perhaps you would not think that you had done anything wrong. I don’t think anyone can deny there are serious flaws within the medical system, and some of the greatest issues (barring the actual health system, or lack thereof) stem from the dysfunctional nature of the doctor-patient relationship. As someone who has spent far more time than she would have preferred with various kinds of doctors, I have experienced the difference positive interactions can have in these kinds of situations.

I will readily admit that I was not the easiest patient in earlier visits. My interactions with you were sour before you even entered the room. To be fair this was not your fault. I was so very angry, not with you, but with everything. I hated the windowless room with annoying posters. I hated the redundancy of having my vitals taken (and the inevitability of the nurse shrinking my height!). I hated having to come and see you and live through the predictable choreography of the appointment; after having the same unproductive appointment so many times, I just wanted to escape. To summarize, I was a child with a poorly concealed rage for her entire situation.

This cannot have been pleasant to deal with, and I know from the way my mother would glare at me that I was being much more snarky than was strictly necessary. But I would like to remind you that I was a child whose rage stemmed from fear, and a little compassion would not have gone amiss. For the entirety of the (short) amount of time you were actually in the same room as me, you were disinterested, dismissive of all questions, and overall not very helpful. In the early days I would come up with questions to ask you beforehand because I wanted to gain a better understanding of what was happening to me and you would answer in short statements that closed the door for further questions. You weren’t particularly interested in looking into my specific symptoms or considering what was causing these things; the answer to my questions was almost always “Sometimes it’s just like that”. I realize you probably didn’t have a better answer to give me, but my ability to accept your answer would have been different had you been able to deliver this news with some form of compassion.

In later years, I would prepare for my appointments by doing research. This too was met with tight-lipped disapproval, and the admonishment that “You can’t believe everything you read on the internet”. This was incredibly insulting. By this point I was older, I was no longer the snarky kid who used to glare at you across the room. Beyond this, unlike you I actually grew up with the internet, I am well aware of how to find credible sites and studies. Despite this, you once again managed to effectively shut me down. I wonder if you thought my research was done to discredit you, if so, you were greatly mistaken. It’s not fun to live with your health in an unpredictable gray area, I was tired of being afraid and wanted to fight fear with information. The time of passive and uneducated patients is over, I hope that you will come to accept patients who choose to empower themselves with information regarding their own health.

You also made it clear that I had no real reason to complain. I know my case is not nearly as serious as others affected by the same condition, however, I do not think that this discounts suffering I experienced. Pointing to a photo another patient gave you and exclaiming “See, she has it way worse than you and still lives her life” is not something I wanted to hear at my appointment. I was not aware that by going to the doctor I was signing up for the “Pain and Suffering Olympics; Warning: if it could be worse you have no reason to complain!”. I don’t think it’s unreasonable to want a better outcome with a very treatable disease.

Oh Dr. Doe, although I spent many years deeply resenting you, I must admit I now have mixed feelings. On my final visit, I remember you mentioning that your own child had also been recently diagnosed and I could feel your own sorrow and confusion leek into our carefully established dance. I am so sorry for you and your family, no one deserves to be put in that kind of situation. I hope that your child is receiving the care they need with a doctor who is both competent and compassionate. Having a doctor who is both willing to listen and interact with their patient can go a long way in healthcare. The age of M. Deities is long over, it’s time to foster better doctor-patient interactions.

**Dr. Doe is based on multiple individuals rather than a single person.

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