February 21, 2013

When Your Doctor Wants to Talk About God

The Doctor, by Sir Luke Fildes (1891)
The Doctor, by Sir Luke Fildes (1891) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
I went to one of the doctors I see last week for routine follow up care. This doctor has never been much for meaningless chit-chat, and this has always been one of the things I have liked about him. This time was different. I think our recent tornado must have affected him deeply because he wanted to talk about it. This was fine until he brought up the role of some sort of god. Living in the most religious state in the U.S., I generally assume that everyone with whom I interact is religious. I am usually correct to do so. But when someone like this doctor begins the god-talk, it still takes me by surprise. And yes, I still find it completely inappropriate.

When I shared this experience recently on Twitter, Cephus (Bitchspot) told me exactly what I probably would have told him if he had been the one sharing the experience: it is tough to want to continue seeing a doctor who believes this superstitious nonsense enough to talk to his or her patients about it. I agree. And yet, I have little doubt that I will continue to do just that.

This doctor graduated at the top of his class, has an excellent reputation in the local medical community, and practices the most thorough, evidence-based approach to medicine of any doctor I have ever visited. He takes copious notes during each visit, collecting relevant information in a systematic way, setting up plans of action, and generating means of assessing progress to determine what is working and what is not. Best of all, he communicates all of this to me. I have never once felt that he was in a hurry to get rid of me or that he wouldn't be perfectly happy answering whatever questions I might have.

The problems for which I see this doctor are chronic. I have had them since childhood and will continue to have them for the time I have left. I have seen many different doctors in many different states, and I can say unequivocally that this one has been superior to all the others. In the small town where I live, the odds of me being able to find another doctor in this specialty who is equally competent by void of superstition seem minimal.

The idea of seeing a medical doctor who embraces primitive superstition does bother me. There is no escaping that. At the same time, I'm not ready to give up on this one. This was the first time he's engaged in any god-talk in the 8 years or so I've been seeing him. I sincerely hope it will be the last. But unless it becomes considerably worse, I plan to keep seeing him.

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