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Bad Doctor

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.

This article represents the opinions, thoughts, and experiences of the author; none of this content has been paid for by any advertiser. The team does not recommend or endorse any products or treatments discussed herein. Learn more about how we maintain editorial integrity here.


  • Sandra Melton
    5 years ago

    I can relate to your experience in some aspects. My first experience with a rheumatologist, before I had an official diagnosis, was to have him yell at me and tell me that I wasn’t going to get disability. I decided I wasn’t going to go back and just try to deal with my symptoms on my own. Things just got worse so I had to eventually find another rheumatologist. Fortunately I did have a better experience with the next physician. I saw that person for two years and then my insurance changed and I had to start over with someone else.

    There are only two rheumatologists that take my insurance at this time and I feel like I am stuck. My current rheumatologist refuses to acknowledge my diagnosis of RA. When I bring up a symptom she says it is due to fibromyalgia, which I have also been diagnosed with. She doesn’t listen to me. She comes in starts typing on the computer, looks at it the whole time, then does a quick look over and asks me, every time, where I work and starts talking about a friend of hers that has died recently.

    I have told her that I hate coming to see her because I feel like she doesn’t listen to me. I have had chronic bursitis of my left hip since I started with her and her response is to inject it with steroids. I also started having problems with my elbows recently and her response was, “oh, it’s tendinitis it will go away.” It has been three months, it still hasn’t gone away.

    I have even called my insurance company on three separate occasions to complain about her. The only other rheumatologist that takes my insurance is her partner. I am currently waiting on her to call me back at this time, it has been two days now. She doesn’t want to try me on any other medications because she says it will do more harm than good. I don’t understand that because I am currently missing a lot of work days because of my RA symptoms. So my current strategy for dealing with her is to just call and aggravate her until something is done. I hope I don’t get worn down before she does.

  • Kelly Mack moderator author
    5 years ago

    Sandra, very sorry to hear about your experiences with your RA doc. I think you definitely have to be persistent and keep demanding the care that you deserve. In the meantime, perhaps you can get additional support from an internist or general practitioner? Keep on fighting!

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