Friday, February 16, 2007

How Doctors Think...and Don't Listen

Dr. Jerome Groopman has experienced first hand (no pun intended) the pain and hassle, and potential danger, of an incorrect medical diagnosis. He got four wrong diagnoses on his hurt hand out of six surgeons from whom he sought opinions. Even worse, he and his wife were sent home with their sick infant son repeatedly by their pediatrician, dismissed as neurotic first-time parents. And he was a doctor! A trip to the ER later proved his baby had a serious and possibly deadly intestinal blockage.

I am eagerly awaiting his new book How Doctor's Think, which is coming out later this year. According to advance interviews, his book discusses one of my biggest pet peeves with some medical professionals. They don't listen to their patients or value their thoughts.

A good friend of mine was recently diagnosed with a brain tumor. I went along with him and his wife when they met the surgeon for the first time, as a sort of medical translator. Although they were very relieved to work with someone so well regarded and confident, I was blown away by his aggressively arrogant and dismissive treatment of my friend during the meeting. After the operation, which went well, he NEVER visited my friend on rounds. Not once. After major brain surgery.

What's worse is when your concerns are dismissed as a parent, as happened to the author of this forthcoming book. There are many heart wrenching stories out there, but here is the one from my family. An ophthalmologist told my mother that my younger brother had "always been like that" and she just hadn't noticed when she brought him in for an evaluation when one of his eyes STOPPED MOVING. Turns out he had a brain tumor too. Who knew? Not the ophthalmologist. Good thing my mom didn't wait very long to get a second opinion.

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