What’s up, Doc?

I had an argument with a friend the other day. On doctors and the etiquette one has to maintain when speaking to one. My friend was of the very fierce opinion that one should not question a doctor. My first response was something on the lines of ‘What the..’. And so, she and I thought we should ask a bigger audience on what’s the ok and not-so-ok things to ask (or not to ask?) a doctor.

Let me give you her argument and mine – obviously, mine will sound more convincing since this is my blog and she’s lazy enough never to have had one.

I believe in questioning. Not interrogating or cross-questioning, mind you, just pure questions to know what the heck is the problem with my health. One of the banes of being an educated person is that one will find it hard to accept something eyes closed. If I’m being prescribed a certain medicine, I’d like to know why and how it will cure me. If I’m being put on an antibiotic course for a common cold, I’d like to know why. Because it’s my body and my health that’s in the picture.

And I hate assumptions. If the doctor doesn’t say anything about a diet restriction, I cannot assume that I can eat normally. If the doctor doesn’t mention the side effects of a certain medicine or procedure, I cannot assume there won’t be any. I ask. I ask if I need to avoid certain foods or if I should be taking a painkiller. And for the world of me, I don’t see anything wrong with it!

My friend disagrees completely. She thinks that every question I ask of the doctor reflects my inability to accept the doctor, gives an impression that I don’t trust the doctor! After the ususal ‘Oh my God’ and ‘What the hell is wrong with you? How can you think that?’, I tried explaining to her that one can never never never assume anything when it comes to medical treatments. But no, it’s not like that apparently. If the doctor doesnt voluntarily (I repeat, VOLUNTARILY) give you any information, you have no right to ask about it. If you don’t have to know, the doctor won’t tell you. If the doctor tells you something, that’s all you know and all you need to know. To me, that’s absurd!

Her thumb rule? No questions to the doctor and speak only when you’re spoken to. She even went one step further and said that a doctor has every right to be irritated with me if I ask too many questions!! Again, WTH?!

So, blog-readers, help us out. Please to let us know how you deal with your doctors. Does it show lack of trust if I ask my doctor questions regarding my treatment? Is it ok to make assumptions if the doctor doesn’t give me the information upfront? And if there’s a doctor reading this, does it irk you when patients ask you questions about treatments and medicines? How much information is a patient entitled to regarding his/her treatment?

Let me know you opinions in the comment space, please!


29 thoughts on “What’s up, Doc?

  1. first of all, nice rant! πŸ˜€

    and yes, i agree with you completely. when i go to a doc and he prescribes me something, i believe i have all the right to ask him what is wrong with me. i don’t believe in taking medicines blindly. i need to clarify everything that is going on inside my head, every bit of it. yes, sometimes it might be irritating to the doc, but i still wish to know. as you say, ‘it is my body, my health that is at stake’. i need to be clear about what i am putting inside it. and i don’t see anything wrong in it. the same holds true with any service or product i buy. i need to know what i am buying.

    sorry for the rather long comment. couldn’t help it! πŸ™‚


  2. I do agree, we have full right to ask questions to the docs…why not yar..? you r going to pay him, if u r suffering, then who would ask if not you?? Its always good to know more about what you r suffering from or what are the consequences so that u can take care of it next time for you or for ur family member or anybody around u for that matter….

    Gaining knowledge does not mean that u r doubting a doctor, or his knowledge or his expertise or his professional services…

    one should ask till the time you get convinced.


  3. Really a thought provoking thought!

    I second the opinion that we as individuals who are responsible for our own well being have the right to question, re question, re re question, re re re question and keep questioning the doc. I have 2 valid reasons for doing this:

    a. Its my body and i need to know whats wrong, why, for how long and when can i recover completely. Also i have to know the precautions, dosage and many other things. Its my right not because i am curious, but because i care for myself.

    b. Like any other market we are consumers of the Medical market and a consumer is the king of the market. A doc charges us a decent amount and sometimes a Fortune for his services. So as a service provider it is his responsibility to let us know the details about the product he is selling us with all its pros and cons. If he doesnot do that, we have complete rights to question him, as we have paid the full price for his service.


  4. Priya Iyer – exactly what I told my friend! although I didnt look at it from a consumer perspective..never struck me to see it that way! thx for the new direction πŸ™‚

    Bhumi – very valid point, again. I need to know so I can avoid it a second time! πŸ™‚ welcome to TP!

    Monisha – I agree completely with the first point. As to the second part of the second point, the doc would probably be seeing a 100 patients a day, so sometimes they might be too tired or just bored (they’re humans, after all!) so I dont mind if they miss out on minor things like take meds after food or before food.. which is why I ask them if I dont get that info.. my friend thinks thats wrong too! 😦 btw, thx for takin’ the time to give your opinion and welcome to TP! πŸ™‚


  5. Hey Priya,

    Am Priya Iyer’s friend….she made me read this forcefully but i really loved it πŸ™‚

    now..my opinion about the above blog
    i agree with both of u Priyas completely as i have been through a bad experience with a doctor who was just after my MONEY!!!
    it was thn dat i learnt 2 go into details n started making questionaire 4 each n every medicine dat d doc prescribed.
    i think v hv full right to ask d doc wht,y,how n how much time will it take to recover.

    take care


  6. I agree with you….I think most comments on this blog will start with this line. Anyways…Now a day we hardly have any doctor who takes enough time to make you understand all details (voluntarily) about your illness. After prescribing a long list of medicines….what they are more worried about is next patient in the queue as they charge for their every minute. If and only if you ask they will give information about what to eat and what not and other precautions.

    So, better to use your right of information and ask questions for your own betterment πŸ˜‰


  7. Shilpi – hey shilpi! thx for dropping by and thx to Priya to force you to drop by πŸ˜‰ yeah, I make questionnaires too ‘coz more often than not I end up forgetting half the things I need clarifications on!

    Ruchi – thats very true, about some doctors being too busy..but we cant blame them either you know.. work gets to all of us at times! thx for droppin’ by and welcome to TP! πŸ™‚


  8. [start background music….]

    [Naatamai Me comes in veshti, jibba with angavastram…]

    …It depends on the doc & the situation…if I have been visiting the doc for years I would just trust him listen to whatever he is saying [I hear you yelling what the…] …if I have cough and he gives me some cough syrup other than Benadryl…I wouldn’t mind….but if its a newbie doc or if I am visiting him for the first time or if i have some problem other than the common ones then I would ask lots of questions….

    …I feel an experienced doc will explain everything without you asking anything….


  9. ur friend is an idiot.
    there is a reason why doctors are not allowed to date or get involved with their patients.. it is not only unprofessional, it is also crossing the trust barrier. patients are not supposed to trust doctor’s statements on their face value.. after all it is still “science”
    ur friend might never be a dominatrix but i see a very happy guy in her future.


  10. Firstly a very interesting post! Your friend doesn’t seem to understand the fact that there is nothing wrong in questioning. The doctor owes an explanation to the patient and must allay the patient’s doubts/fears. Infact, the very spirit of questioning is so vital especially in such situations. However, the extent to which the doctor can go to explain things is limited. For instance, not many of us can actually understand the drug interactions of say, a particular antibiotic. The doctor cannot explain the same thing over and over again, in great detail to all patients. It is clearly a burden on his time. Further, the patient might be scared if the doctor were to list out the side effects of a drug. Its a popular saying in medical parlance that for every beautiful effect that a drug has there is an ugly side effect.
    Having said that, it is binding on the part of a doctor to atleast present the details in their basic form to the patient and answer his/her questions. There is definitely not a portrayal of ‘a lack of faith’ in asking questions. When a teacher explains Newton’s laws, the student might come up with several questions,some trivial,some profound. It definitely does not amount to a lack of faith in the teacher or Newton! May not be a great comparison, but neverthless just to drive home the point that questioning seldom suggests lack of faith.
    PS:Sorry for the long comment. But am fond of such issues:)


  11. The docs in the US (yes yes I have seen many of them *sigh*) are very different from the docs in India. They don’t treat you like an idiot; especially if they can see you are well educated, they go to lengths to explain what exactly the problem is, what are the available lines of treatment, make sure exactly what your options are and why they are recommending that particular option. I even asked a few technical questions (from what little biology I know) and the doc didn’t shy from giving technical answers.

    I must add though, that the medical system in the US sucks for the most part. There is a shortage of doctors, especially specialists, so waits are long, and medical insurance is expensive. I wish we could have the best of both worlds, but that’s not how life works, is it?


  12. I can’t beleive your friend feels that way …why not? He is a professional and is there to answer all my relevent queries and more. Besides he is the best person to ask him and set to rest all my doubts. By all means ask all the questions that you deem fit … the silly ones and not so silly ones too.

    Besides , no point carrying on with doubts,sometimes the doctor leaves out a few things assuming they are mundane so may not say it explicitly.Besides, ofcourse there is that chance it might have slipped his thoughts.

    When in doubt ask , always!


  13. I agree with you to a lot extent, the doctor is definitely answerable to the patients and we have all the right to ask him why a medicine “X” is prescribed and why not “Y” I mean I don’t intend to question hi knowledge but just as an information, because the person in question here is ME, and my health. Well if we are not supposed to ask anything from a doctor, and just follow his advice blindly then probably there wont be any difference between us and the patients who go to the village dispensary, what is the point of beinmg educated?

    But on the other hand we have t accept that a doctor cant go to the extent of telling each and every minute details, like what are the side effects of this medicine, what are the effects of this medicine, the dos and donts. It is his profession, just like I dont enjoy if people start asking me in and out of the code that I have written the same implies for him as well, and on the other hand he has to look at other patients as well, if he ends up spending so much time with only one… then his practice would go for a toss!



  14. Me – iyo, you forgot to turn off the background music! πŸ˜‰ btw, my friend’s response: “Naattamai, theerpa maaththu!!!!” πŸ˜‰

    Smitha – Please don’t call my friend (or anyone on this blog) names. Ever.

    Sathej – I agree to your point about the doc having to explain everything over and over again. And yeah, sometimes ignorance IS bliss! πŸ™‚ Thx for the long comment – shows that you took time out to actually think and respond.. dont worry abt it!


  15. Prashanth – you know, I thought so too. that docs in the US would be like that. but hey, most docs I’ve been to here have also been very helpful with questions. My family doctor actually used to tell us why a certain food should be avoided or why a certain mg of a tablet is being prescribed instead of a lesser/higher dose..so I think it depends on the doc mainly

    Juneborn – Exactly my argument – when in doubt, ask! πŸ™‚

    Shantnu – I’m not sure I would compare code with a medical treatment – a wrong line of code wont end up killing me, but a wrong dosage of a med would! πŸ™‚ but I get your point.. too many details would only burden the patient more, but the basic minimum should still be available.


  16. Priya, I agree with you.

    A patient has every right to question a doctor. After all, doctor is not God. Doctors can make mistakes like every one else.

    Why else, even AMA [American Medical Association] encourages patients to seek ‘a second opinion’ on almost everything.


  17. Yes, a doctor is not God – and it irritates me no end when they act too busy or bugged to answer my question no matter how silly it may sound to them. As a patient, I would be anxious about various things – after all it’s my health!
    Moreover, a friendly doctor is more likely to succeed in her/his practice than a rude one. There!


  18. (Probably I am repeating) There are many sides to the issue. So here is the bullet list

    * Doctor is god : Culture in India is to treat doctor as god. You dont question god, so is the doctor – Many have been brought up in this manner. – But its changing

    * Doctor is army chief : When we know the doctor very well, we dont question them – we trust them. So no question. You trust your army chief completely for his decision. – But its changing.

    Tell your friend you are not second-guessing his decision but getting to know more about the condition and reason behind the decision.

    On a sidenote , I would like to mention something different now…

    * Doctor is health consultant. – There is a practice in US. You go to doc for surgery. He tells there is a procedure A which has these pros and these cons. There is also procedure B which has these pros and these cons. They ask u to take a decision. You ask doc what would you do if he was in your shoes. Doc says he is not in your shoes. Eventhough doc is the expert he asks you to take the decisions.

    In the name of patient empowerment, the shifting of responsibility is done from person who is educated and expert to a person who may not be in right senses or have right knowledge to do so. This is done to avoid blame on doctor.

    What we need is patient enlightment not patient empowerment

    Question your doctor, but never take the decision on his part.


  19. A good rant and as said your friend stands no chance … πŸ™‚ I wish the pour soul had a blog page of her own too.
    I too agree with what you have to say, but my two cents on this post is as follows. Doctors not voluntarily giving information is acceptable, in the interest of time. Good doctors are scarce in INDIA and patients abundant. Asking questions isn’t wrong, and doctors getting vexed or irritated at questions is outrightly wrong and condemnable.
    I would consider this situation akin to teaching, a doctor who gets irritated at questions is akin to a teacher getting irritated at doubts. Its ego that is the problem with every experienced famous person and nothing is more sinful than that. The same goes with software professionals, engineers and so on… If what you prescribe or do (example writing code) is so complicated that you can’t explain it yourself something is wrong with your practice (or your method of writing code). If you get offended by questions especially from your patients then maybe your ego is interfering with your practice and its time that you retire without endangering any more lives.


  20. Am I A Hindu – πŸ™‚ it’s downright scary when docs make mistakes though.. thx for dropping by!

    Rusty N – tell me abt it! I once went to a doc who gave me this look everytime I asked him a question.. I got so pissed..but was too sick to do anything..

    Jam – Totally agree with your last line: never take the decision on his part – I think that’s just heights and plain stupidity! πŸ™‚

    Vishnu – hehe, my friend has gone into hiding now πŸ˜‰ but yeah, I think we’re all entitled to our questions..after all its our health!


  21. A different case with me, actually…My family doctor, knows that I am a biotech student…So he makes it a point to give me a gist of the disease, plaguing me or any of my family members… i dont know about the other doctors though.. Depending on my mood, I ask doctors questions and they reply..Till date, no doc has been rude enough to say a No to my ‘Can i clarify some doubts pertaining to this disease Doc?’ question of mine 😐

    Well, IMHO, Doctors should make it a point to brief people about their illness. Somebody, i know, is admitted in the hospital for ‘some reason’. The bad part is that none of his family members know what that ‘some reason’ is. The worst part is that the doctors, even, when, questioned, refused to provide them with the answer. Dunno, why doctors have to be cruel enough to do this !


  22. Sumaal grammatical error in my previous comment πŸ˜€

    ‘Till date, no doc has been rude enough to say a No to my β€˜Can i clarify some doubts pertaining to this disease Doc?’ question’


  23. For me it is a question of which doctor and which disease…For the few first few times it is OK to ask the doctor stuff related to your “disease”which he hides from you and another case is if the disease sounds really scary like “pneumonoultramicroscopicsilicovolcanoconosis” :p

    As for me I trust my doctor, whatever he gives I take(easy to say when i haven’t had a “DISEASE” for a long time…BUt yea people do ask a lot of questions don’t they??

    What if asking too many questions is the disease in question??



  24. Nithya – I know, it’s really sad when people get admitted in the hospital and they have no idea why! btw, family docs are awesome aren’t they? πŸ™‚

    Sharan – dude..if asking too many questions is the disease, you need a psychiatrist, not a regular doctor! πŸ˜€

    ok, you guys can relax on the grammar bit πŸ™‚ dont kill yourselves over it, I’m not looking to correct ’em! it’s just a comment space!


  25. I agree with you. You cannot do whatever the dr says w/o understanding why, why not and what else.

    These days, Googling to Doctors is a bane. Most patients google up their symptoms and come to a diagnostic conclusion that contradicts the doctor’s and inturn end up asking irrelevant questions which irritates many doctors.


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