Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Doctors Who Don't Care About Their Patients

This is the second time I am posting about something that happened to a friend, and not actually to me. But I love my friends and hate when something bad happens to them. This post is about my friend "Mary." Mary has a chronic condition that fortunately is well controlled with medication. In order to maintain control, however, it is critical that Mary take her medications exactly as prescribed (which she does). So recently, when she realized that her prescription was about to run out, she called the specialist physician who wrote the original prescription.

After 2 days of trying to get in touch with someone at the office, she was told they would have the prescription filled for her at an out-of-town pharmacy where she was going to be traveling on vacation. When arriving on vacation she discovered that this was not true and her medication ran out. Mary called her physician's office again, and was then told (a day later) that she had to have an appointment in order to get a refill. Keep in mind that Mary has run out of her very important medication. Mary luckily managed to get an appointment, only to be told by the doctor that he lost some of her paperwork (he blamed medical bureaucracy for the loss) and that is why he didn't want to refill the prescription. Even during the appointment, he refused to give her a temporary supply of the medication until they were able to sort things out (for those of you not in medicine, that is a common practice). He also told Mary that she had been non-compliant over the course of the last month because according to his files, her prescription was due to end in May (for the record, it hadn't run out and she was very compliant). Finally, Mary went to her primary care physician who immediately prescribed a two month supply so that she wouldn't have to worry about going without while the specialist dealt with his missing paperwork. Needless to say, Mary is going to find a new specialist.

I'm not a physician yet, so I can't say that bureaucracy wasn't to blame for the lost paperwork, or that the physician was just acting to the best of his knowledge. However, he was rude to my friend and her husband, irrationally stubborn, and refused to acknowledge that his patient was without a necessary medication needed to control her condition. He waived off all reasonable solutions suggested by Mary and her husband, even when his nursing staff pointed out the absurdity of his actions. Three separate hospitals and two pharmacies all agreed that his actions were not appropriate.

As a future physician, I am just appalled by this doctor's actions. If Mary had been a brand new patient, or if she had been looking for some kind of high dose pain killers, I would understand his hesitation. Neither scenario is the case. Additionally, without her medication, Mary's health was at risk, and she very easily could have experienced a set-back or had to be hospitalized. Mary and her husband are both obviously incredibly upset by the whole fiasco, and generally feeling let down by medicine. Doctors should put their patients' needs as the highest priority. That is the first thing you learn in medical school and it is a central tenant to our code of ethics. It is very upsetting when someone who you are supposed to trust to care for you does the exact opposite.

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