Friday, June 30, 2017

Doctor, Heal Thyself

One morning last week I noticed a minor but painful, could-be-cancer lump that had seemingly sprung up out of nowhere. Since we were heading into a weekend, I called our family physician and described the situation to the nurse who answered the phone. After she consulted with the doc, she said they could "squeeze me in the following day before his first appointment," which meant I had to be there at 7:45 AM. I said fine.

As the day passed, things improved. By nighttime the lump had receded and I had forgotten about the appointment with the doctor. The next morning I slept late, then piddled around until about 8:30 when my husband returned from his morning workout and reminded me. "Oh crap!" I wailed, rushing to call the doctor's office. I explained that my condition had apparently fixed itself and I had just plain forgotten to come in. "I am so, so sorry," I said to the nurse. "No problem, he comes in early every day so there was no harm -- he wasn't inconvenienced at all."

Then yesterday I received a form letter in the mail from the physician's parent organization reprimanding me for my bad behavior. It was sent to remind me "just how valuable the doctor's time is" and inform me that "while it is inevitable that unforeseen circumstances may cause someone to miss an appointment," the next time it happens I will be charged the full price for an office visit ($128) unless I cancel within 24 hours. And while they would like to continue providing for my health care needs, if it happens a third time within an 18-month period, "it may be necessary for us to consider discharging you from the practice."

Duly chided, I threw the letter in the trash this morning, just before I opened today's Wall Street Journal and read that "the opioid addiction crisis in New England has surged 500% in the last seven years," due to doctors over-prescribing the drugs. "The amount of opioids sold in the U.S. has nearly quadrupled since 1999, even though there has been no change in the amount of pain reported by Americans, the CDC said."

I'm considering mailing that article to my doctor and telling him to stop it.


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