Bad Doctor

Last updated: November 2014

I’ve been poked, prodded and pinched. I’ve been yelled at, accused of imagining my disease and pain, and told I wasn’t getting better because I didn’t want to. In my years of rheumatoid arthritis, I’ve had many experiences with doctors who were mean, negligent or just downright bad people.

Now wasn’t I surprised recently when I had a new experience that took the top prize for being most terrible ever. The short version is that when I needed a letter of medical necessity for a new wheelchair my general practitioner sent a note about my recent case of bronchitis instead of explaining my 35 years of severe rheumatoid arthritis.

Um, yeah. Let’s just say there’s an issue here.

I wish I could say this was an outlier with the doctor, but I actually changed doctors because of recurring issues like this. Every time I visited, it was good. I thought she was smart and caring. But anytime I needed anything, such as basic paperwork for another doctor, a record, letter for insurance, she failed.

For awhile I thought it was the office. I tried to be nice, but persistent. After a few of these situations I came to realize it went deeper. Maybe she cares, but not enough to get the details right. Messages would go unreturned. I’d have to drop in to the office to beg and cajole. Sometimes my husband would as well.

I gave up and found a doctor that actually responds when I need something. How about that?! My new doctor coordinates with my specialists and keeps my records up-to-date. Maybe I need a sanity check, but I’ve come to believe that these things are actually part of a doctor’s job. They need to do these things well—it’s not optional to respond to patient concerns or fill out forms.

I’d already left my old doctor, but this problem came up for paperwork she was supposed to have correctly submitted five months ago. I was only informed when my insurer sent a rejected claim letter for the wheelchair I’m already using along with a copy of the useless paperwork my doctor originally sent.

Even though I left and sent urgent messages, it took her two days to respond and not until it was after 6 pm on a Friday. She didn’t apologize but instead told me “not to be so upset.” Classic sensitivity. Thanks for taking my $13,000 bill that I cannot afford seriously.

I’m not sure I’ll ever get what I needed. Frankly, I’ve given up on her. All my other doctors, including specialists, responded to my call within 24 hours with letters of support that explained my need for a wheelchair. My hope is that other documentation can correct her negligence.

My health and independence are too important to rest on the whims of someone who doesn’t care to do their job right, who doesn’t value competence and responsiveness. Someone who truly cares about their patients makes sure what they submit for paperwork and records corresponds to what is needed. A true professional doesn’t blame the patient for worrying, but tries to make it right if an error has been made.

One bad doctor can make our lives hell. Fortunately, I have several other great doctors in my life who stepped up to correct a situation that was not their making. It makes me feel better to know that I have health professionals who do care about me and will take action in my support even though it wasn’t their problem.

I hope it’s a long time before I encounter a bad doctor again. I understand that we’re all fallible humans who make mistakes. But there’s a difference in an honest mistake and repeatedly failing in the most basic responsibilities of your job—to care about your patients and respond to a call for help.

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