Epilepsy Talk

Doctors behaving badly… | July 16, 2020

We all have had at least one experience when a doctor either behaved badly or treated us in a way we didn’t feel we deserved.

“He could have spoken in a nicer tone,” you might mumble to your husband.

But what do you do when the experience with a doctor takes a sharper turn?

What if he doesn’t believe your symptoms or validate your experience?

What if he doesn’t take into account your pain before beginning an in-office procedure?

The shock, fear, and disappointment of having a bad doctor experience can be daunting.

What can you do?

Should you do anything at all?

The answer to that, I believe, is always “yes.”

You may have heard the saying, “The customer is always right.”

You’re still a paying customer in the doctor’s office, and you know your body and your needs better than anyone else.

So, if you are unsatisfied with your experience, you should speak up!

Any patient in a hospital, when we take their clothes away and lay them in a bed, starts to lose identity.

Could this be you?

“When I was getting my first ever gyno exam at age 21, I winced at the pain of her inserting the speculum, and she scoffed and said, ‘Oh stop, it’s no bigger than your boyfriend.’” — Nicole, 23, New York, NY

“When he was working on a filling, my (former) dentist said, ‘Oops.’ I think there are certain people who must remove words like ‘Oops’ from their vocabularies: surgeons, ob-gyns, bridge engineers. Dentists, who literally work inside your face, fall into that category.” — Marian, 26, San Diego, CA

“When I told my ob-gyn (who I had been going to for years) that was I thinking of becoming a single mother he said, ‘You will never date again, no man would want you.’ And he said that I should take the money I had saved and ‘buy a condo in South Carolina.’ I didn’t stay long enough in his office to ask, ‘Why South Carolina!?’” — Jo, 48, Brooklyn, NY

“Mid root canal, I heard the oral surgeon curse loudly enough for me to take my earbuds out, just in time to hear her say, ‘I can’t believe I just did that! Well, we can fix it, I guess.” — Melissa, 25, San Francisco, CA

“I have deformed, arthritic hips and went to a very famous holistically-oriented doctor to see if there was anything I could do instead of surgery. He swiftly handed me a script for 90 Oxycontin with refills. ‘I don’t think I need a drug addiction on top of my other problems,’ I told him. ‘Oh you won’t get addicted,’ he pshawed. This was years ago, but I don’t think he ever read a newspaper.”  — Sara, 51, NY

“I was undergoing fertility treatments and feeling really hormonal from the drugs. When I told my doctor, he said, ‘I think you need to get out of the house more. Why don’t you get a job at the mall?’ As if working at Cinnabon was the answer.” — Cathy, 39, Seattle, WA

Truth is stranger than fiction…

An Arkansas doctor with a love for weapons of mass destruction or a Delaware pediatrician with a basement dungeon!

If you thought the details of Joan Rivers’ death from complications during a routine endoscopy couldn’t get any more shocking, you’re wrong: Rumors surfaced today that the gastroenterologist who performed the procedure, allegedly snapped a selfie of himself moments before the procedure.

In 1999, a New York City surgeon carved his initials (a large A Z, if you’re interested) into the belly of a patient after he performed a Caesarean section.

In 2000, a surgeon left in the middle of surgery to run to the bank and cash his paycheck. He told his stunned OR team that he’d be back in about five minutes; he returned 35 minutes later.

It’s in the records…

If results from national survey can be believed, more than 2 in 3 U.S. doctors witness other physicians disrupting patient care or collegial relationships at least once a month.

More than 1 in 10 say they see it every day.

The survey involved 840 doctors, most of them leaders in their own physician communities.

“Disruptive physician behavior is the issue that just won’t go away,” says Dr. Barry Silbaugh of the American College of Physician Executives, which sponsored the project with the help of a Massachusetts-based group called QuantiaMD.

“Our profession is still plagued by doctors acting in a way that is disrespectful, unprofessional and toxic to the workplace.”

The college, he wrote, hopes the survey will shine a light on “the shadowy, dark corners of our profession” where doctors act in arrogant, demeaning and even physically violent ways.

Silbaugh likened it to pilots “fighting in the cockpit.”

He says stress, long hours and red tape contribute to the bad behavior.

“It’s not getting any easier in this era of reform,” he notes, “where the rules seem to shift from day to day and the financial rewards may be shrinking.”

A 14-page white paper put out by the ACPE cited these examples:

A prominent surgeon’s habit of degrading comments aimed at nurses and support staff eventually resulted in “shoving and pushing…in the OR.”

A doctor who was being monitored because of a long history of rudeness again yelled at a nurse, resulting in “a significant medication error and harm to a child.”

A male doctor created “an intolerable work environment for a female physician” through “condescending, bullying” and refusing to acknowledge her supervisory role.

Three-quarters of survey respondents say they’re concerned about disruptive behavior by fellow physicians.

Virtually all say it affects patient care.

A little over a quarter of doctor-respondents admitted they had been guilty of disruptive behavior at one time or another.

The most common reasons, respondents say, are workload and behaviors learned in medical school.

More than half the doctors surveyed say they’ve witnessed other physicians yelling, flinging insults, refusing to cooperate with other health care personnel and refusing to follow established rules.

Less frequent but not uncommon: Discriminating against colleagues or patients (24%), inappropriate jokes (40%), profanity (41%) and spreading malicious rumors (21%).

Least common, but disturbing, were cases of throwing things (14%), retaliating against perceived slights (13%), substance abuse (14%) and physical violence (3%).

The survey found mixed responses when it asked doctors how well they think their hospitals or practice organizations deal with bad behavior.

Perhaps not surprisingly, female doctors were less comfortable reporting or confronting instances of disruptive behavior.

Respondents say health care organizations should develop clear policies and procedures for confronting bad behavior, disciplining it and preventing it by improving the culture of the medical workplace.

There’s no way to know if the survey is representative.

Nearly 10,000 doctors were invited to participate, but fewer than 10 percent did.

“It is possible that the respondent group was either more interested in or more likely to have experienced or witnessed disruptive physician behavior,” the white paper acknowledges.


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  1. Those doctors who ”decide not to relate to us, or ask & think WHAT IF this all happened to me? they all need to be doctors for a few state prisons, where inmates may correct them quickly when they tell doctors how they are feeling, More drugs are NOT always the answer parents, as teens & younger children to infants are getting their brain abused more than ever today, because neurologists will always say THIS DRUG is what your child needs now, then a month or 2 later, THIS DRUG is what your child need for now, while never taking away any of them once they have been on1 to 5 or more drugs. << THAT is 1 of the many reasons my seizure condition still exist today after almost 60 years. I would love to make THEM take all the drugs in 1 to 3 months or 1 season, all the drugs they had me to take for over 59 years. That would be pay back enough for me & watch them SLOWLY SUFFER, then of they were still alive INCREASE THE DOSES. Problem is some of my doctors I had are dead, which is not right for them not to know today just what their PRACTICE did to the many they had treated for 20 + years.

    Liked by 2 people

    Comment by James D — July 16, 2020 @ 4:09 PM

    • I love your state prison reference. It paints a clear picture of tolerance versus intolerance. So, do we have to be caged to safely speak our minds?


      Comment by Phylis Feiner Johnson — July 16, 2020 @ 4:49 PM

  2. Hoo boy! Hot button.

    I was so shocked by something that had passed between one of my doctors and me that I mentioned it to one of his colleagues, a specialist, soon after. His response was, “Larry can be very cruel to his patients.”

    I didn’t go back to the original practice. While I was grateful to the one who validated my experience, I had to wonder why nothing was done at a peer level.

    This led to an on-going discussion with various medical providers: What makes for a good doctor?

    Liked by 1 person

    Comment by HoDo — July 16, 2020 @ 4:32 PM

    • Someone who listens and cares. Who respects your feelings and your brain (not to mention your body). A person who is experienced and proficient at his specialty. Etc., etc., etc.

      I know, it was just a theoretical question.

      “Now then… this might hurt juuust a bit, but it’ll be alll right…”


      Comment by Phylis Feiner Johnson — July 16, 2020 @ 5:00 PM

  3. I’m glad I’m not alone. Doctors always get mad at me. I have a mystery foot pain that they can’t figure out so they blame me. What am I supposed to do? I ask. “Live with it!!” Or another doctor, I ask, What’s wrong with my foot? “I don’t know. What do YOU think it is?” A lung nodule was found on a ct scan (it was only I that brought it up b/c I read the report): “Oh, they go away on their own.” Gyno: “do you take the pill?” no. “What does your boyfriend think of that?” Don’t really care, bitch.

    Liked by 1 person

    Comment by Hetty Eliot — July 16, 2020 @ 6:08 PM

    • Oh no. Soundings disgusting and dangerous. What’s a patient to do? Especially you?

      Liked by 1 person

      Comment by Phylis Feiner Johnson — July 16, 2020 @ 6:36 PM

      • I dunno. Cry and maybe curse them out? 👀 not that I have ever done anything like that 👀 of course not. Who, me? Never. 😉

        Btw Phylis, have you written anything about how to have “the talk” about epilepsy to one’s boss? Long story short, I always used to work 4 days, then they spread it out to 5 and it’s trigger city for me at work between the fluorescent lights (my #1), not being able to breathe with the mask, and general sensory overload. I had a minor breakthrough last week and have had a pounding headache every day that Tylenol doesn’t help. My hours would be the same amount but I need that extra day to let my brain test. My neurologist wrote a letter and I am just afraid to talk to my boss bc the company does not take kindly to people who need accommodations.

        Liked by 1 person

        Comment by Hetty Eliot — July 16, 2020 @ 7:12 PM

      • I don’t know if this will help…

        Epilepsy, Employment and the Law


        Liked by 1 person

        Comment by Phylis Feiner Johnson — July 16, 2020 @ 7:52 PM

      • It’s a great starting place for me. My employer knows they need to abide by these laws (and this is a huge company so they certainly know it) but they don’t like us peons to know about it. Thanks!

        Liked by 1 person

        Comment by Hetty Eliot — July 16, 2020 @ 8:15 PM

      • Hetty, re discussing epilepsy with your boss: if you have a Human Resources department, that might be the place to start, to clarify your legal position and that of your company.

        It can be very dicey. You’re right to be cautious. With the lights, I offered to replace ceiling bulbs myself. It seemed to help to be proactive.

        Liked by 2 people

        Comment by HoDo — July 16, 2020 @ 7:45 PM

      • Thank you for your suggestions. I’m looking into the HR guidelines. The problem is that I work in a dept store of a very large company, and they aren’t happy with this stuff. If I could change lights you better bet I’d be on that 12 foot ladder 😉. I feel that given my relationship with my boss, I have enough rapport with her that I believe i should talk to her first before HR because I feel it would look a little sneaky otherwise, but I want to come armed with all the info and documentation ready bc I do fear being smacked down. I’ve seen people’s lives become miserable after receiving accommodations but I can’t be sick like this. I had a minor breakthrough seizure and have had a pounding headache for four days now and that’s when I said enough, I need to do something, I can’t start having these again.

        Liked by 1 person

        Comment by Hetty Eliot — July 16, 2020 @ 10:27 PM

      • Phylis is right on, the more information you have, the more power. First, to know the law. Then, to know your company’s policies (you already know their attitude). Then, be quite clear about what accommodations you need. Don’t expect them to offer. In order to do my job, I need A and B and C. Said calmly, without tears, as if you were saying you need a chair, a desk, a rest break. Going to Human Resources isn’t sneaky if you’re after information. Or it may be available online at the State or County level.

        This accommodation request needn’t be confrontational, it could even be cooperative.

        Liked by 1 person

        Comment by HoDo — July 16, 2020 @ 11:40 PM

  4. Knowledge is power!

    Liked by 1 person

    Comment by Phylis Feiner Johnson — July 16, 2020 @ 10:00 PM

  5. Phylis.
    How’s for the state medical board making mandatory annual survey of the patients under various medical procedures & treatments to evaluate & screen out the bad doctors & revoke their license to practice medicine, protecting the voiceless & helpless patients from abuse & maltreatment in the very “professional” hands who’re entrusted to do “NO HARM” to the patients?
    Big brother watching, the bad doctors may NOT feel they can get away with abusing & maltreating their patients.
    Therefore strong & very active oversight commission is needed to protect the patients from bad doctors.


    Liked by 1 person

    Comment by BahreNegash Eritrea — July 17, 2020 @ 1:38 PM

    • There are review boards, but peers tend to protect one another, so medical oversight is useless. Unless there’s a law suit. Then everyone jumps into the fray. As witnessed by the accounts in this article.

      But, as you said, if there was some way to get patient feedback, it would be wonderful.

      I think Medicare has some systems in place, but not true for other insurance companies. And since insurance companies bear the bulk of the expense, of course, they’re more interested in the outcomes.

      So what would you say about patient reviews through their insurance companies? It’s pretty transparent and there would be no peer protection or favoritism.


      Comment by Phylis Feiner Johnson — July 17, 2020 @ 2:03 PM

      • Medical schools & insurance companies do not LICENCE doctors to practice medicine.
        The state licenses the bad doctors to practice medicine in it’s own territories.
        Therefore, besides the intermittent unprofessional encounter, practicing medicine have many fatal consequences for many helpless patients who ended up having bad reactions, ignored side effects & addiction to the prescription medicine due to bad doctors failing to pay attention to the patient’s needs.
        Every year, a whole lot of lives are lost for “medical errors” of bad doctors.
        Therefore, it’s up to the state to oversee & screen out the bad doctors & protect the patients from harm, carrying out public inquiries/survey & strict regulations to protect the general public in need of medical remedy.

        Liked by 1 person

        Comment by BahreNegash Eritrea — July 17, 2020 @ 4:43 PM

      • I couldn’t agree more Gerrie. In a perfect world, the state would oversee and screen out bad doctors.

        As for medical errors, this article may be of interest:

        Medical Mistakes Out of Control! https://epilepsytalk.com/2020/06/22/medical-mistakes-out-of-control/


        Comment by Phylis Feiner Johnson — July 17, 2020 @ 5:11 PM

  6. There’s healthgrades.com. You can rate a doctor anonymously, and see any disciplinary or legal actions.

    Liked by 1 person

    Comment by HoDo — July 17, 2020 @ 2:21 PM

  7. That’s a very good point HoDo and it can affect your choice of doctors. Even if it can’t help keeping “bad doctors” at bay, it can at least be a heads-up for the prospective patient.

    Thanks for bringing up that point.


    Comment by Phylis Feiner Johnson — July 17, 2020 @ 2:28 PM

    • It’s helpful to remember, too, that a doctor may be “bad” because of acting like a jerk, while at the same time being a superb diagnostician. Or a nice person but a little slow scientifically.

      And there’s the old joke, What do they call the doctor who graduates last in their class? A: Doctor.

      Sometimes I ask where in their class they placed.

      Liked by 1 person

      Comment by HoDo — July 17, 2020 @ 2:49 PM

      • I had a surgeon whose bedside manner was not great. Except in times of crisis. In the operating room, he was all comfort and care. Post-Op also.

        But for routine visits, he just made me feel like I was wasting his time. If I didn’t know that he was such a proficient surgeon, I probably would have chosen a more sympathetic doc.

        However, what’s to say how he’d perform in the OR? It’s a conundrum.


        Comment by Phylis Feiner Johnson — July 17, 2020 @ 3:03 PM

  8. I just wear sunglasses (or my prescription sunglasses) and wear my beats. I let my husband or best friend listen on the other end and just talk to me to help guide me if I become upset or too tired to remember. Plus I had him my watch and tell him to go over the stats she/he requires (blood pressure, activity, even possibly seizures, oxygen levels and on and on) so they can see everything themselves.

    Liked by 1 person

    Comment by Kathy S.B — July 29, 2020 @ 11:14 AM

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    About the author

    Phylis Feiner Johnson

    Phylis Feiner Johnson

    I've been a professional copywriter for over 35 years. I also had epilepsy for decades. My mission is advocacy; to increase education, awareness and funding for epilepsy research. Together, we can make a huge difference. If not changing the world, at least helping each other, with wisdom, compassion and sharing.

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