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Mary Shomon

My Letter to the Editor of Time Magazine Re: Dr. Haig and his "Googler" Article

By November 13, 2007

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I wrote a letter to the editor of Time magazine, regarding Dr. Scott Haig's "When the Patient is a Googler" article. Read it here.

Mary Shomon

November 13, 2007

Richard Stengel, Time Magazine
Time & Life Bldg, Rockefeller Center
1271 Avenue of the Americas
New York, NY 10020

Dear Mr. Stengel:

I am writing regarding Dr. Scott Haig’s Nov. 8, 2007 article in Time, titled “When the Patient Is a Googler.” As a patient advocate, I am very dismayed at how Dr. Haig has derisively labeled empowered, informed healthcare consumers as “Googlers,” and even more derogatorily, as “brainsuckers.”

Dr. Haig deliberately highlights as his example of a “Googler” his experience with a truly obnoxious patient -- one who also brings along an ill-behaved and screeching toddler to her appointment. But while we “tsk tsk” right along with him at this shrill and pushy know-it-all and her screaming “little monster,” as Dr. Haig calls him, it’s easy to miss the real message behind Dr. Haig’s account: Just like misbehaving toddlers, patients should be seen and not heard.

Dr. Haig complains about his patient’s “excruciatingly well-informed questions.” When she is discussing medical topics with him, he ridicules her “misused, mispronounced words.” He describes her self-concern as “utter selfishness.” He laments that “by the time they come in, they've visited many other docs already — somehow unable to stick with any of them.” He complains bitterly that these patients “have many complaints, which rarely translate to hard findings on any objective tests.” And, worst of all for him, “they talk a lot.”

We get the point. Dr. Haig is irritated and inconvenienced by educated, empowered -- and yes, sometimes demanding and illogical -- patients. But Dr. Haig needs to realize that many patients must be “Googlers” -- for some it’s truly a matter of life and death. To navigate the health care maze, patients must ask smart, well-informed questions. Patients must do their research, and attempt to speak “medicalese” -- and yes, they will pronounce things incorrectly and make mistakes -- just like doctors do. Patients will have complaints that can't all be quantified on a test. Patients will talk -- sometimes a lot. And patients will frequently have to see multiple doctors, not to annoy them as Dr. Haig implies, but rather because the doctors don’t have the time, skills, knowledge or patience to provide proper evaluation, diagnosis and treatment. Some of us have to kiss a lot of frogs, Dr. Haig, before we find a prince.

Health care is complicated enough. I hope that patients reading Dr. Haig’s article are not further discouraged from becoming educated, speaking up, asking questions, and advocating for themselves.

Sincerely,

Mary J. Shomon
Comments
November 16, 2007 at 5:11 am
(1) Anna Nederdal says:

Dear Mary, Your the best!!
Love & respect
Anna in Sweden

November 16, 2007 at 5:36 am
(2) Julie says:

I want to thank you for taking a stand for thyroid patients and patients in general. I have been through this with doctors and can tell you that you have to fight for the right to be informed about your health care. I’ve been told that alternatives to typical thyroid treatments are “voodoo”, among others, so keep up the good work and eventually we make get the help and understanding that we need.

Thank you

November 16, 2007 at 6:49 am
(3) Marta says:

Mary, your letter to the editor is amazing! I am in awe of how you are able to clearly state the case of frustrated patients and intolerant doctors without sounding strident or angry. While many of us have a right to be angry & sound shrill and strident, there is an art to not sounding that way. Bravo!

November 16, 2007 at 8:10 am
(4) Roxy says:

Thanks for your response to the TIME magazine article. If I hadn’t been well informed about my possible hypothyroid condition, I would still be lying in the couch in misery. I would never have had the strength to continue the fight, in the face of the dismissive attitudes and ridicule I faced in trying to get treated. I can’t tell you how much I lost respect for the medical community as a whole, and, conversely, how much respect I gained for the doctor who was open-minded enough to listen.

November 16, 2007 at 8:36 am
(5) Kim says:

Wow Mary!! What an awesome, well written letter! I am a googler when it comes to my health and the health of loved ones. You have to be informed! I was fortunate to find an amazing DR. who appreciated my well informed questions and said she actually learned something from me! It is unfortunate that we must Dr. shop but our health depends on it!!

November 16, 2007 at 9:16 am
(6) Maggie says:

Mary,
A huge thank you for being a voice to so many of us.

November 16, 2007 at 9:18 am
(7) Marilyn Mazziotti says:

My health insurance strongly advises that I need to be informed to ask the right questions and get the needed information from my doctor. Perhaps they need an educational campaign with the doctors in their network about dealing with knowledgeable/”google” patients.

November 16, 2007 at 10:06 am
(8) Debi says:

Wow! You hit the nail right on the head Mary!

November 16, 2007 at 11:20 am
(9) Nicole says:

Bravo to you Mary! I like to call myself a “researcher,” but I’ll take the term “Googler” too and be proud of it. I know this is not new for many patients, but I’ve had doctors ignore my questions and tell me info I got from reputable sources was just hype. I’ve also had doctors who have told me that I wasn’t really feeling the way I said I was feeling. It’s discouraging and downright disgraceful and doctors who treat their patients without respect should be ashamed of themselves. I’ve been diagnosed with hypothyroidism for nearly a decade and although I don’t feel 100 percent well all of the time, I do have a doctor who welcomes information I bring in with me and who is genuinely concerned for my wellbeing. Thank you to the docs out there who have their patients’ best interests at heart and thank you Mary for your hard work and insight.

November 16, 2007 at 11:23 am
(10) Zonulin says:

Brilliant – you’ve captured our experience in a nutshell! We went to 22 doctors in 2 years to find out why my 9-year-old son was constantly nauseated and losing weight (culminating in a trip to the Mayo Clinic). I went from being a very compliant mother-of-the-patient to finding out what tests needed to be ordered on my own and demanding them. Some would say I was more of a “Munchausen Mom” instead of a petit papier because my son was dying right before my eyes and no one could figure it out!!! Our story has a happy ending – all thanks to the InterNet.

November 16, 2007 at 11:30 am
(11) Judy says:

Mary….RIGHT ON!!! I’m PROUD to be a Googler, and SICK of docs who treat me as if I’m an idiot because I want to be informed. I find this is true with a lot of men, in general, who seem to think that informed women are a threat to them. Shame on Time Magazine for propagating this “disinformation campaign”. GOOGLE ON, everyone! Thanks, Mary…I dub you “The Googling Heroine” with much affection and respect. Power to the googling women!!

November 16, 2007 at 11:48 am
(12) patty says:

I hope everyone who has the misfortune to be treated by this doctor has the opportunity to read this article. What a charmer.

It’s a shame there are so many like him, and so many of us out there who have to do all the work ourselves. All that money spent on medical school, yet all they can do is push whatever the pharmaceutical company tells them to, and mock the very people who pay their bills.

November 16, 2007 at 12:15 pm
(13) Starlene says:

Thank you Mary for your wonderful letter to the editor of Time. I am one of the “Googlers” and “brainsuckers” type of patients Dr Haig dislikes. I will not stop trying to understand my health problems and researching new studies and technology for my health and life. Luckily, I have found good doctors that tolerate my involvement and assertive participation in my treatments. Keep up the great work and information you provide to all of us, Mary. You are very much appreciated!

November 16, 2007 at 12:28 pm
(14) Brenda says:

Great letter! The sad fact is there are doctors and other professionals, such as judges, like in this article! I had to help my Dad in small claims court and hired a consulting arborist to write a study regarding his tree and roots and whether they were damaging the neighbor’s wall. The judge flipped through that $300 report and said “someone has been on the internet”. He didn’t even look at it, that is how close minded he was. My Dad lost and the judge’s reasoning, “Big tree, must have big roots” end of story and Dad must pay $1,200 for damage to neighbor’s wall. The judge didn’t even care about a professional’s opinion on paper in a custom study (arborist said there were no roots damaging the wall). We couldn’t appeal as Dad had to have surgery in a week and we wanted the whole thing over.
Even the tree lost as we figured the neighbor would try to sue again in a year feeling so confident from that outcome–we hired someone to cut it down (not a valuable tree, but grew like a weed).
Bottom line and lesson learned: Do your research for the doctor, court, whatever, but don’t come in the office with a huge pile of papers. Try to memorize your questions, or have just one little paper with your key issues. Yes, one should do research and be empowered, but a lot of these people think you are just printing everything you see on the internet and dumping it on them. I do my research and ask my questions. I’ve found some great doctors this way and I’ve “fired” quite a lot along the way.

November 16, 2007 at 1:14 pm
(15) Rachel T. Bowers says:

Mary, thank you for all your hard work and advocacy! What on earth would we do without you? I am most definitely a “Googler” to my most profound fortune!
I was being treated for two years for hypothyroidism by a local doctor and getting worse and worse, to the point my husband and I thought I was doing to die soon.(That turned out to be true; but for other metabolic reasons). The local doctor became infuriated when I found a good doctor* on your website and began to improve in health, to the point that he became verbally abusive. I reported him to our insurance company who apparently did nothing. That doctor is still practicing.*The doctor I found on your website saved my life and I continue as his patient. We both talk about my problems and my needs and he listens and acts accordingly. I pray for every thyroid patient, whether hypo, hyper, and/or autoimmune, as good a doctor. Keep up your good work, Mary, and God bless you!

November 16, 2007 at 1:24 pm
(16) Galina says:

Well said, Mary
I am a dentist and was almost a doctor prior to that, and yet I can’t find one to help me. I am taking Synthroid / Levothyroxin for the last 17 years (after the birth of my daughter), and all this time I go from doctor to doctor, unable to find one who will be knowledgeable, patient, and welcoming questions. Unfortunately, integrative medicine is not a specialty, and so there is no information available to me how to find one. I tried everything, I even contacted Kate Lemmerman, but she doesn’t know one in Canada. If anybody can help with this, I shall really appreciate it.

Thank you kindly

Galina
Toronto, Canada

November 16, 2007 at 1:25 pm
(17) Donna says:

RIGHT ON MARY!!!

Thanks for speaking up for all of us!

Keep up the Great work that you do!
Donna

November 16, 2007 at 1:38 pm
(18) penny says:

Straight to the point . .. right on the money. Bravo Mary

November 16, 2007 at 3:29 pm
(19) Marilyn says:

Excellent! I have multiple conditions: severe Hashimoto’s, advanced DDD, three ruptured cervical disc fusion surgery and am an advanced stage cervical cancer survivor. All of these conditions have occurred within a 4 year period and began at age 36. I HAVE to prepare so that I can make the most of each appt. But, I get the “sigh” when the list of questions appears and am cut short because of their 10-15 minute appt “window”. It is impossible to try and find a Dr. whose ego will allow to look at the entire me and how each condition affects the other…the stress for example seems to always keep the Hashimoto’s on attack mode. Each Dr. just wants to discuss their specialty own portion not the interaction. So I do it for myself and am viewed as a “high maintenance” patient. Pass her along, refer, appt time is up, see another specialist and so on.

So BRAVO Mary! You are the best! Keep up the outstanding job!!

Thank you so much-
Marilyn

November 16, 2007 at 5:38 pm
(20) Lynda says:

Thank-you Mary!

November 16, 2007 at 6:13 pm
(21) Melissa says:

Succinct, to the point and professional, as always! Thanks so much for all your help!

Melissa

November 16, 2007 at 8:39 pm
(22) Teresa says:

Sound as though the so-called medical professional who wrote that article is of the same ilk as those fifty or so that my petit papier friend Cheri saw over the course increasing debilitating illness before she found one who took her seriously enough to actually look at her x-rays. That blessed man discovered that all her problems arose from the troubling fact that ten years earlier the quack who removed her appendix had left over a hundred metal staples lying in her stomach cavity! Thank goodness Cheri was angry, snotty and stubborn enough to keep on insisting until someone paid attention-she’d be dead by now if she hadn’t.

November 16, 2007 at 11:45 pm
(23) Leslie says:

I have been blessed w/medical professionals who take the time to LISTEN to me and ANSWER my concerns.

In addition, I print out my articles, making sure the sources are universities, well-known hospitals (i.e. Johns Hopkins), and medical journals.

DON’T use resources that are brought up on top of your search (paid advertisers).

Google usually has a space between those and non-advertising Web sites.

Leslie

November 17, 2007 at 6:44 am
(24) Allura says:

Hmm. Who’s more arrogant when viewing female patients — Dr. Haig or the boys at Time magazine? Thanks for calling them on this, Mary. You’re the best!

November 17, 2007 at 6:36 pm
(25) Sheila H. says:

As a Medical Transcriptionist, I have first hand knowledge that doctors, on a daily and routine basis, mispronounce medications, diagnosis, and most commonly prescription dosages. The latter makes a HUGE difference when discussing Synthroid medication. Any physician worth his weight in salt knows that Synthroid is dosed in micrograms; however, every physician save for 2, systematically dictate the dosage in milligrams. Of course, I am not allowed to correct it, I can only type what I hear and it is so aggravating. They mispronounce names, get birthdates wrong, etc. So, noone is perfect, not even the almighty physician. Mr. Haig needs to go back to Bedside Manners 101 and take refresher course. Or, perhaps, a personality class would best suit him.

November 18, 2007 at 10:00 am
(26) KimS says:

Wonderful response!

I’ve added it to my “Trashed!!” collection of physician responses.

Thank goodness they’re not all like this!

November 19, 2007 at 2:20 pm
(27) James H. says:

To Sheila H. It is now mandatory in most hospitals that synthroid (or any other medicine) be noted in milligrams and not micrograms. So 150 mcg is 0.15 mg. The doctors may be simply following now standard measures.

November 20, 2007 at 3:33 pm
(28) Kris says:

I hope an actual patient gives this doctor the comeuppance he so richly deserves, in addition to your well-written letter. After moving to a state in a whole new region of the country, I chose a doctor based upon someone’s recommendation. When I discussed serotonin levels with this man and asked if there was a test one could take, he told me there wasn’t, and I could tell he thought I was an idiot. Well, even though this was 1997, I did my internet research and discovered there was indeed a lab test for serotonin levels. This man out and out lied to me, and I won’t tolerate that. I marched over to his office and asked for copies of my medical records (didn’t take long…I’d only been seeing him about a month), as well as the previous medical records I had given him. Oh, yeah, they wanted to charge me to make copies of records I had given him! Oh, no, that wasn’t going to happen. I let it be known that I was changing doctors…very loudly, I might add, so all in the waiting room could hear…because he lied to me. I also said I had more respect for a doctor who would tell me he didn’t know the answer, but would find out for me. The doctor is supposed to be your partner, not your father, or your God. It’s about time doctors realize you don’t have to go to medical school to know something about the subject. And, one more thing, no doctor knows my body better than I do!

I hope all of Dr. Haig’s patients read that article and realize what he thinks of them…idiots who provide him with his chosen lifestyle. Who’s the real idiot here?

November 21, 2007 at 3:57 pm
(29) Vesna says:

Why does Haig believe it is pertinent that “Susan” was “in good shape” and “attractive”?

November 22, 2007 at 10:42 am
(30) kim says:

Thank you for informing your grateful readers of this Time magazine article, and for your delightfully written response. I would like to give kudos to Time magazine as well, for no matter what their intention, they have shone a bright light on the arrogance of at least one so-called professional. When reading through these posts and contemplating the availability of knowledge we all enjoy… I realize that for the most arrogant among us, they are experiencing a level of fear never know in that group before… the education and enlightenment of the masses. We no longer have the great wall dividing us and them. Not so long ago, information and education kept them elevated above us all, and they felt superior in that position. No more… we are becoming equals on so many levels… and the arrogant among them are afraid of us.

November 23, 2007 at 11:25 am
(31) Lisa says:

Answer for Galina in Toronto, try Dr. Pettle
at (416) 633-4101 he will prescribe natural
thyroid hormone. I just started it and will let
you know how I am feeling in the weeks to come.

November 23, 2007 at 11:31 am
(32) Lisa says:

Mary, your letter to the editor was clear, smart
and I think it will be a real eye opener to all
of the medical ‘professionals’ who have been
treating their patients poorly when they see that
they are trying to be well informed. In my work
I am happy if my clients come to me with informed
questions and I am not afraid to be questioned. All
the best doctors I have ever seen never seem to mind the questions. It has often been the doctors
who I know are not ‘top in their field’ that have seemed defensive when answering my questions. I too have ‘fired’ doctors if they have not been willing
to consider my questions and research. Thank God
for Google and Mary Shoman!

November 25, 2007 at 7:24 pm
(33) Colleen says:

My doctor failed to notice I was extremely hyperthyroid — despite having had blood work showing this TWO YEARS before I hit rock bottom, possibly having, and surviving, a thyroid storm.
A nurse saw my bulging eyes, looked over my records and got me the help I needed. … After that, I became aq googler, and found the best doctor in the area. I feel great.

November 26, 2007 at 1:15 pm
(34) Yvonne Miller says:

Thank you for such a great letter!

November 29, 2007 at 11:33 am
(35) beth says:

I had to become a “Googler” to recommend to my “keeper of knowledge” that I probably needed to be referred to an endocrinologist for thyroid tests. After 3-4 years of suffering – I finally found out that I have Hashimoto’s but my doc got the $185 for the visit!!

December 5, 2007 at 8:40 am
(36) Teri E says:

I overheard a Dr refer to me as a “member of the scare-of-the-month club”. This was pre-internet so this attitude has been around for a long time. Docs with this attitude toward patients need to do everyone a favor and retire!

December 5, 2007 at 9:27 am
(37) Wolfe says:

Well said, Mary! Thank you for standing up for us Thyroid patients =)
Dr. Scott Haig really needs to get into modern times and out of the stone age.

If it wasn’t for me Googling and doing research, I’d be still suffering from my thyroid condition if not in a worst, dangerous, health condition(s). It was just horrid what I went through before finally being put on a medication for it.

I am glad I am a Googler – LOL – it saved my life =) Googling my symptoms has sure panned out for the best in a couple of situations, besides Thyroid, I went through. My Doctor. actually likes it when I research, and works side-by-side with me … never protesting. He’s even told me at times he is learning from me when I do my research. He has admitted that family Doctors do not get enough training in various areas, Thyroid being one of those areas =)

As my Doctor says, “You live in your body, therefore are the one that really does know it best!”

*Hats off to those Doctors that really do work side-by-side with their patients and listen to them!*

*Hats off to those that don’t do the blind-faith in Doctors anymore like the old days. We have a right to research and make sure we are getting the best quality in health care!*

December 5, 2007 at 9:28 am
(38) Ann says:

You do the man an injustice. He punted the patient because he knew she’d not be able to ‘go the distance’ with him. He stated that clearly.

I’d like you to picture how much patience you would have with some self absorbed person sitting in your space ignoring her child while he destroyed your property.

Further, there is a big difference between a well-informed, logical patient (the engineer was his example,) and the lunatic narcissist who feeds his/her personality disorder by visiting healthcare professionals. Because of the nature of healthcare, focused on the patient, this is Disneyland for the narcissist.

December 5, 2007 at 9:53 am
(39) Chris Little says:

I would like to thank you for speaking out for the patients on this very sensative topic. It is very difficult to get a thyroid disease diagnosis, especially after finding out that you are pregnant and also if you have been completely healthy all of your life. This was the case with me, and along with all of the other hormones at a time like this in a woman’s life, having a doctor that thinks so little of his (for only a man would think like Dr. Haig) patient it really a shame and a disgrace for the health care industry as a whole!!! I am just saddened to the extreme by Dr. Haig’s article and offended. Thank you for being the voice of thyroid patients, and I suggest you contact the CBS Early Show and get the word out, Dr. Emily Senay, I am sure she would be happy to do a segment on the subject. Thank you again!!! -Chris (Graves Disease-2005)

December 5, 2007 at 12:51 pm
(40) Joanne says:

Thank you, Mary!
Your letter to Time is excellent! I have become a medical “Googler” over the past few years, starting with an oral cancer scare my brother had (before he had a computer or internet). After that, I honed my research skills for my own multi-level spinal fusion, eventually visiting 6 surgeons (who gave me 6 different surgical plans!), before choosing one. I based my choice on bedside manner, information from very reliable online sources such as Cleveland Clinic and Spineuniverse.com. I rejected one surgeon who wanted to use outdated, old-fashioned methods, and another arrogant egotist who is actually an editor at Spineuniverse who ridiculed my well-researched questions during a visit. I also went through the agony of red tape getting onto Medicaid for my surgery because I am one of the millions of mid to low-income Americans who don’t have health insurance. And then Social Security Disability…more obtuse red tape and rules…Then came the Thyroid condition, and now I have had a burst colon and a temporary colostomy. Without the internet I would either be in constant pain or dead. Keep fighting for all patients, Mary!!!

December 5, 2007 at 1:12 pm
(41) Mary says:

I love/hate the internet. There is some good information. I don’t like paying monthly fees to have thousands of pages of junk invading my space eating my time every day. The internet and computers are just another institution like the mafia and insurance companies. They create a disturbance so they can steal money from you. Seems pretty silly to me that you would pay money to see the doctor with years of experience and knowledge, to try and impress him with your self found internet information. The information on the internet compels people to act like drama queens, all about emotional stuff. Perhaps you should check your attitude. If we continue to be gulliable, then we won’t have anything to worry about, because our world will be taken over by idiots and terrorists.

December 7, 2007 at 3:55 pm
(42) Sheryl says:

You go Girl! I am fortunate that the doctors I have really appreciate the well-informed questions. And further, they answer the questions and work with me to find what is right for ME in my health care decisions. Isn’t that what it’s about – doing what’s best for the patient? My doctors have made me feel that its ok to say no, that I would like to discuss other treatment options/medications. I have had doctors in the past with the attitude that they know it all and wouldn’t answer questions or explain things in layman terminology when asked. Suffice it to say, I won’t go to that kind of doctor. But from the sounds of the article, that is what those kinds of doctors prefer anyway.

December 7, 2007 at 8:26 pm
(43) steph says:

How many of you respondents have actually READ the article by Dr Haig? I believe Mary missed the point of Haig’s missive and am amazed at the bitter vitriol she has brought forth. Read it first, then comment. He in no way recommended patients stay uninformed…just asked that they acknowledge some googled information does not an MD make.

December 8, 2007 at 3:07 pm
(44) christine says:

Thank you Mary for speaking up. There are a few like Dr Haig, that is why I go to a women doctor. christine

December 11, 2007 at 11:01 am
(45) Michelle says:

Thank you so much Mary for not only having the courage to go to “bat” for us, but to also have the ability to make it public. I think your letter was great and anyone who doesn’t agree is either a relative of that Dr. or a relative/friend of a Dr. just like him. I have a couple of friends who had Dr’s like that and it’s really a miserable thing. You suffer for nothing because you have such a closed mind professional that really isn’t there to help you in the end. Keep up the great work Mary and GOD BLESS!!!!

December 12, 2007 at 11:34 pm
(46) Diana says:

All I can say is Amen! I relocated from the NW to the SE 3-1/2 years ago and suffered through a series of 3 well-respected, arrogant, uncaring, insecure doctors until July this year. They caused much needless stress and suffering, and furthermore, they were just plain wrong! Now I am blessed with a brilliant and likeable doctor who listens to me. I was so close to abandoning traditional medicine – but why should I feel bad, for it had already abandoned me?

January 26, 2008 at 6:56 pm
(47) The Devil-- A Male Physician says:

1) I trained with Dr Haig. Though we don’t share the same opinions about everything by any means, I can say and he is a smart, caring , compassionate doctor and his patients adore him esp because he is HUMAN and has a SENSE OF HUMOR and is HONEST. And sometimes honesty is exactly what people/patients need the most— like most people, what Dr. Haig writes is not what he says to patients- he’s a bit more nuanced.

If you don’t like his attitude, I dare say you that if you dig into anybody’s mind, you will find opinions and attitudes that are objectionable eg political affiliation. In fact, you might as well judge your doctor according to their political affiliation since of course we know that one party is more ‘compassionate’ than the other.

If you choose a doctor because they will tell you what you want to hear (vs. the truth) …

2) Why are people so uncaring towards doctors— You don’t know what dedication and compassion is unless you’ve spent a few years on call without sleep, dealing with the stress of surgery, death, disraught family members, threat of malpractice suits, insurance denials etc. I dare say there are few to no other professions where the demands AND expectations are so unrealistic (eg washing your hands with Purell literally 124 times a day- I’m sure somebody reading this will think that is reasonable).

3) Do you take reams of so-called internet “research” to your kids teachers, the auto mechanic, the grocery store, your real estate agent, your nurse, personal trainer, Starbucks, DMV, judges, lawyers, banker, your boss. Why is it always doctors (and why do people complain about waiting in doctors offices when you yourself have 20 pages of documents you want her/him to look over and discuss?)

January 28, 2008 at 11:27 am
(48) Pat Hemphill says:

I have been suffering with depression for at least 15 years, on antidepressants etc. At the advice of a naturopath I came off my Eltroxin (synthetic thyroid hormone)I could not believe how wonderful I felt!!! I’m now…after all these years, off the anti-depressants. If you tell doctors you are depressed because of Eltroxin…they treat you as a neurotic! It is time we all became ‘googlers’ and started educating our doctors….who don’t have the time or interest to get better informed themselves.

January 28, 2008 at 2:11 pm
(49) Dawn says:

Good for you, Mary Shomon! I fear that many in the medical profession are intimidated by someone who might actually catch them in an uninformed moment, rather than listening in awe of their doctor’s brilliance. Doctors need to remember that they, too, are human and make errors. Perhaps we should all be playing on the same team instead of opposing sides.

February 3, 2008 at 10:43 am
(50) elaine moore says:

Mary,
Your letter is fantastic. I just happened on this thread and find it disconcerting to see how out of date this doctor truly is.
A large study several years ago from Harvard showed that good doctors welcome their patients input (and look at this as an opportunity to learn new information), whereas doctors with little confidence feel intimidated and challenged by patients who ask questions.
As always, you’re doing a great service to patients everywhere when you step in.
Keep up the great work Elaine

March 30, 2008 at 12:11 am
(51) Ligaya Russell says:

Hi Mary,
I do not dis agree with you on the comment about Dr. Hiegl because I didn’t see or read the articles he wrote about patient. I understand that you have thyroid problem, and I have two friend that have a thyroid cancer.
When it come to a cancer or any cancer I feel bad because I have a two friend, actually we have friend that die last year already. For me to comment about that Dr. Hiegl. I think that Dr. doesn’t understand the patient problem, how vialable the patient life. I just can’t understand why he became a Dr. without patience to his client. Another thing, I just wonder if he is a real Dr. Maybe some body just made it up the story to roined Dr. reputation. If he is a real Dr. and do not have a patience then he should get out as a Dr. He should find another job or profession that suit him, rather waisting time.

July 6, 2009 at 3:08 pm
(52) Fran says:

Thank you for your letter. It is sad that docs can be threatened by an informed patient. I am so glad that I never made an appointment with that doctor.

September 7, 2009 at 9:45 pm
(53) B. Marshall says:

To “The Devil”–A Male Physician:
As a patient with multiple medical problems of my own (2 or 3 growing potentially serious now with age), I have had so far 6 medical doctors in my family counting the ones who married into it, three of them Professors of Medicine at top US medical schools, and one of those an internationally respected doctor of research in the US, Stockholm and Munich, (he wrote part of the board exam I’m told they’re still using today). Medicine was their life….they loved it. When asked by doctors after I pose an intelligent question, “Where did you get your medical training ?” I respond “I cut my teeth sitting at the dinner table listening to medical research.” I owned a Merck Manual before people commonly owned computers. I AM one of those patients who bring a LITTLE slip of paper with me to the appointment (I limit the questions to 3 or 4 since I know they have the time constraint). On occasion the doctor will make a smurky little comment at the sight of the paper, and I’ve learned to respond, “I’m trying to save YOU time.” Yes, I do understand all the frustrating issues involved in clinical practice. I’ve also worked in hospitals, including ERs so I know what stress is (not to mention another job as a single mother living on 3-5 hrs. sleep a night for years). And when I think I might forget an important question, to save us both time from a phone call back, I also write down questions for my car mechanic, etc.

I have also been asked to speak on panels on “Doctor/Patient Relationships with Professors of Medicine, Nurses and Social Workers (me being the patient expressing their views). I love to start with, “Medicine is not perfect. It’s always improving, but not perfect.” Patients need to be reminded of that. BUT, I tell the patients and their families that they HAVE a RESPONSIBILITY to themselves to learn about their bodies and conditions. And they KNOW their bodies better than anyone; they LIVE in it everyday and know when something doesn’t feel normal/right. If someone makes a mistake on them, THEY are the ones who will have to live with it for the rest of their lives, not the doctor or nurse. I’ve had doctors make mistakes on this/my body and I’m learning now the results will be for the rest of my life.

It would be a great idea to have half day/day conferences on the topic, with doctors exposing their humanity IN RESPONSE to the patients’ frustrations at times. Could you imagine the mutual understanding that might come about ? The NY Times also just had a great article on a medical student going into geriatrics spending a few weeks in a nursing home as part of her training living as a patient with grease smeared glasses and plugs in her ears, in a wheelchair, etc. I think all specialties should have that training. I also heard Bernie Seigal, M.D. say he thought all medical students should be “diagnosed” with a serious life threatening illness for a few weeks during medical school (told few weeks later they were OK) just to understand the emotional impact for starters.

Patients DO need and want to hear the truth, and sometimes it might just be the doctor admitting his/her limitatons and saying, “I don’t know.” I know that’s hard for doctors to admit. They are trained to “cure” and don’t like to see/treat patients they don’t have the answers for.

I actually chuckled at your Purell comment,”Devil, male physician”…..with many autoimmune disorders in my family I should buy stock in the company. I use it probably 124 times a day :o ) Try the green kind with aloe. It smells great and isn”t hard or drying on the skin.

Respectfully,
Lover of the “Art of Medicine”

March 23, 2010 at 3:07 pm
(54) Johann says:

Thanks for sending and reproducing that letter for us, Mary.

I have come across SO many doctors who haven’t got a clue what they’re doing! I had Paget’s Disease of the Bone for over 30 years, and had at least 5 different doctors look at the positive results on my blood test for it AND mention those results to me without bothering to make the further test to confirm the diagnosis. So far, it’s been 4 years since the diagnosis, and I STILL haven’t been treated for it, other than what I can do myself because of info on the internet!

It’s that kind of incompetence, and all those doctors who have learned that the magic words “There’s nothing wrong with you.” (which means they don’t have to bother to DO anything, but you still have to pay them) that keep patients going from doctor to doctor trying to find out what’s wrong when they can TELL they’re sick!

In a lot of cases, the only way to get a diagnosis and treatment is to find out what’s wrong with you yourself, and be sure you know what a good treatment for it is.

As a patient, I’m just glad that there is medical information that I can get access to.

This is sour grapes from a doctor who has a patient who KNOWS how much the doctor really doesn’t know.

I had lots of respect for a doctor who told the truth when he said “I don’t know what’s wrong with you.” And even more admiration when he added “But I’m going to find out!” I love an attitude like that!

March 26, 2010 at 11:07 am
(55) Deb says:

Great letter, Mary. Here is the letter I wrote to my endocrinologist, firing her:

Dear Dr —–

I feel compelled to write to you to inform you that I have decided to return to my primary care physician for care relating to my thyroid disease. There are several reasons for this decision and I will try to present them in order of concern to me:

1. [name of PA] did not seem to be as interested in the best care possible. During my last visit with her, I informed her of extreme fatigue, even in light of her assuring me that my lab results for TSH levels were within the normal range. Then, she decided to look at my last lab results, which had been done many weeks prior to this appointment. She informed me that my Vitamin D levels were significantly low. As much as I wanted to, I did refrain from asking “And you were planning to tell me this WHEN exactly?!”

2. I am the kind of patient who involves herself in her own care. I do a lot of research online and am careful to avoid making decisions or expressing the desire for new treatments until I have read everything I can get my hands on. I found a couple of articles regarding the new acceptable levels for TSH, in addition to another article re: thyroid disease. I faxed these to [name of PA] and asked her to please read them so we could discuss at my next appointment. When I raised the subject with her at my next appointment, I received a distinctly blank stare, which I can only assume can be translated to either indifference or condescension, or both. I am convinced that the articles I sent ended up in the wastebasket.

3. [name of PA] steadfastly refused to increase the dosage for my thyroid meds, saying that my labs were perfect. I could never understand why she was unwilling to give it a try, while keeping a close eye on the labs. Is it because it would have been too much work?

I was very clear with [name of PA] from the beginning that my goal TSH “number” is a 1. When I had my blood work done approximately two weeks ago, my number was back up to 4.5. I have concluded that my desire to seek help from a specialist for my thyroid condition did nothing more than make it worse … much worse.

4. My insurance has raised the deductible for seeing a specialist from $20 to $30 per office visit. If [name of PA] had been helping me, and if she had shown the slightest indication of interest and willingness to try some new approaches, I would continue to see her. She, however, only managed to make my situation worse.

The Physician’s Assistant at my primary care physician’s office has agreed to increase my Armour dosage from 1.5 gr to 2.0 gr. After just days at this dosage, I am feeling significantly better!! She insists that her first goal is to treat a patient’s symptoms, not the lab results. The lab tests are used to ensure that everything stays in safe and acceptable ranges. My last blood test showed, as I have already stated, that my TSH levels had soared to 4.5 and that my Vitamin D levels were still rather low, but within range.

Thank you, Dr ——, for taking the time to read this letter. If I were in your position, I would appreciate feedback from my patients. I think [name of PA] has what it takes to be a fine PA, but I also see the value in further training, or perhaps more involvement from you with your patients.

March 27, 2010 at 8:03 pm
(56) Leigh says:

Very reassuring, Mary, thank you. Just saw my rheumatologist on Thursday, and I’m so tired of my research being dismissed with angry disdain. For the most part, I’ve gotten the tests and medications I’ve wanted for the past four years in spite of the attitude, so I’ve stuck with this doc. But I’m just tired of the crankiness; I’m not entirely well, and it wears on me. It’s time to move on, and it’s good to feel I have a whole team of intelligent thyroid patients rooting for me! :-)

March 28, 2010 at 1:22 pm
(57) Madeleine says:

I am happy to report that I finally found a doctor who appreciates my in-depth “Googling” efforts (What would we ever do without the Internet?). Because I attempt to be well-informed, prepare and prioritize my questions and concerns in advance and only bring copies of information relating to my hypothyroidism that I secured from reputable Web sites, she said I am one of her most informed and well-prepared patients. Although my appointments may last a little longer than usual, both of us come away with the knowledge that we are closer to a solution for my long-standing hypothyroid condition. Hypothyroidism is an extremely complex condition to diagnose and treat and may take a while to bring under control. With that said, I strongly advise others with this frustrating condition — those who have had their low thyroid symptoms “dismissed” by their doctors, just because their TSH results are in the “normal range” — to seek a doctor who will 1) not rush their appointment, 2) will pay attention to their symptoms and 3) will “partner” with them in their treatment.

June 23, 2011 at 2:47 pm
(58) Ken says:

Mary,

I just today discovered your work in patient advocacy and greatly admire you for it.

I’d like to reinforce your advocacy of greater patient knowledge and participation in decisions regarding their health care by calling your and your readers’ attention to the study by Gary Null, Ph.D., Carolyn Dean MD, ND; Martin Feldman, MD; Debora Rasio, MD; and Dorothy Smith, Ph.D., documenting that the current medical system is the leading cause of death in the US:

“A definitive review and close reading of medical peer-review journals, and government health statistics shows that American medicine frequently causes more harm than good. The number of people having in-hospital, adverse drug reactions (ADR) to prescribed medicine is 2.2 million.1 Dr. Richard Besser, of the CDC, in 1995, said the number of unnecessary antibiotics prescribed annually for viral infections was 20 million. Dr. Besser, in 2003, now refers to tens of millions of unnecessary antibiotics.2, 2a

“The number of unnecessary medical and surgical procedures performed annually is 7.5 million.3 The number of people exposed to unnecessary hospitalization annually is 8.9 million.4 The total number of iatrogenic deaths shown in the following table is 783,936. It is evident that the American medical system is the leading cause of death and injury in the United States.”

The study may be viewed at:

http://www.whale.to/a/null9.html

November 11, 2012 at 11:57 am
(59) Lil says:

Deb 55

I hope you expected the doctor to charge you for reading those articles and discussed sending them to your doctor in your previous appointment and didn’t just send them through at your own leisure. If not, then it’s no wonder your specialist didn’t read them.

You probably won’t agree with be and think you’re are just a well informed patient but my gosh you sound like an absolute nightmare. I wouldn’t want to meet you in day to day life key alone in a health care setting.

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