She's a character, she has opinions.

Bad Patients need Good Doctors.

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It seems, in fact, more common than not for patients to defer to doctors and bodyworkers, even when the patients know that doing so is not in their interest. It’s a phenomenon I have come to call the “good patient syndrome,” caused by the following factors:

  1. There is a power discrepancy in the health care hierarchy.
  2. There is a stark reality that the life of the patient is literally in the hands of the health care practitioner.
  3. There is a sense of trust that “doctor knows best.”
  4. Those with chronic conditions are usually overwhelmed.
  5. Those with chronic conditions are often desperate.

[Good Patient Syndrome]

When I first met my Neurologist I said to her, “I am not a good patient.” She asked me what I meant by that and I told her that I was a student and a writer and that I would not trade off my ability to function in those ways for something that eased my pain. She told me that meant I was a very good patient. I think that means she is a very good doctor.

I’m still having very little luck in finding anything that helps with my post-herpetic neuralgia pain. I have something that helps a little with the allodynia and nothing at all to help with the underlying nerve pain. I keep trying, but I’m picky about what meds I’ll take. I’d rather endure the chronic pain than have some of the side effects, especially the mind-dulling, body-exhausting ones the anti-convulsants cause.

I can easily imagine how I could have been a Good Patient. Ten, twenty years ago I might very well have been. With the PHN, sometimes I am desperate and I’m certainly overwhelmed. It’s tempting to blindly trust a doctor because they are supposed to know more about my medical condition than I am. And it’s frightening to think I might be denied care or support because I’ve been labeled as a bad patient (hysterical, lying, hypochondriac, you get the picture) by a doctor whose instructions I refused to follow.

I’m fortunate in my doctors and unbelievably grateful for them. They tell me what they know and what they don’t know, they tell me about the research they have to do before giving me any treatment suggestions, and they encourage me to take an active role in my pain management. Because I’m a Bad Patient and they’re Good Doctors.


Written by tldegray

May 16, 2010 at 10:21 pm

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