The doctor-patient relationship

This can be a tricky one. It involved lots of factors including our feelings towards dealing with expertise, authority, and medical care. None of these are easy!

I’ll start with what the doctor-patient relationship ought to be:
Your doctor is there to help you. Yup, in essence it all boils down to one sentence! Their job is to use their knowledge and expertise to heal people. This originated in Ancient Greece with the Hippocratic Oath, versions of which are still used today – all doctors adhere to it’s principles. If you’re interested, this is the version, written in the 1960s, and used in medical schools in the USA:

I swear to fulfill, to the best of my ability and judgment, this covenant:
I will respect the hard-won scientific gains of those physicians in whose steps I walk, and gladly share such knowledge as is mine with those who are to follow.
I will apply, for the benefit of the sick, all measures [that] are required, avoiding those twin traps of overtreatment and therapeutic nihilism.
I will remember that there is art to medicine as well as science, and that warmth, sympathy, and understanding may outweigh the surgeon’s knife or the chemist’s drug.
I will not be ashamed to say “I know not,” nor will I fail to call in my colleagues when the skills of another are needed for a patient’s recovery.
I will respect the privacy of my patients, for their problems are not disclosed to me that the world may know. Most especially must I tread with care in matters of life and death. If it is given me to save a life, all thanks. But it may also be within my power to take a life; this awesome responsibility must be faced with great humbleness and awareness of my own frailty. Above all, I must not play at God.
I will remember that I do not treat a fever chart, a cancerous growth, but a sick human being, whose illness may affect the person’s family and economic stability. My responsibility includes these related problems, if I am to care adequately for the sick.
I will prevent disease whenever I can, for prevention is preferable to cure.
I will remember that I remain a member of society, with special obligations to all my fellow human beings, those sound of mind and body as well as the infirm.
If I do not violate this oath, may I enjoy life and art, respected while I live and remembered with affection thereafter. May I always act so as to preserve the finest traditions of my calling and may I long experience the joy of healing those who seek my help.


What this all means is your doctor should listen to you, should take your views on board, should answer any and all questions you have, should treat you sympathetically, should try their best to find the right treatment for you, and if that means referring you to another doctor that is what they should do.

If your doctor isn’t doing the above – maybe they’re not answering your questions, or they’re not listening to what you want, or they’re not offering you a choice (and can’t explain why not) – you should look for another doctor. Any medical treatment, and especially any surgery, is a major undertaking for you. Don’t go into surgery without a doctor or surgeon that you trust and who will make you feel at ease.

Sadly there are doctors out there who are more interested in money, more interested in giving you the treatment they can do than referring you to someone else, more interested in prescribing the drug they make money on than what might be best for you. This is by no means the situation with all doctors – just as there are bad ones out there there are also many good ones! But you deserve one of the good ones.


How do you find out?

Do some research into your options
(you’re on this site, that will give you some pointers!)
Ask your doctor/surgeon about other options – are they informative or dimissive?
Ask questions about the procedure you’re having – are they helpful or flippant?
Tell them your concerns – are they sympathetic or uncaring?

Whether you pay for your medical treatment or have it provided you deserve a doctor who cares about you and your treatment 🙂