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Doctors behaving badly: Don't settle for below par treatment


Eons ago, doctors were very paternalistic. They treated patients in a very condescending way. They would give orders and expect patients to comply.

There wasn’t much room for a conversation, queries, or explanations. Doctors “knew” what was best for you, and acted that way.

But over time, things changed, and have continued to change. Healthcare nowadays is more of a shared chore between doctors and their patients, with mutual respect for either party.

Doctors should always treat you well. When you walk into their offices, you should be welcomed warmly. You should be given ample time for your evaluation. Everything must be explained in an easy to understand manner, no medical jargon or other mumbo jumbo.

You should be given the chance to ask questions, and to give your views about treatment options that you find acceptable. You should even have the chance to disagree with the doctor’s recommendations if it comes to that. And there shouldn’t be any hard feelings.

Behaving badly

But interactions between doctors and patients aren’t always cordial. Some doctors have refused to keep up with the times, and continue to behave badly.

In other words, some doctors can’t get around to having good manners. You hear all sorts of complaints from patients. Some doctors hardly spend valuable time with patients. Others can’t be bothered to explain anything. Still, others are in too much of a rush to subject you to some intervention or other. The real bad ones won’t even say hello or get to know your name, all they want is to get over your consult, and move on to the next case.

Doctors are trained in what is referred to as interpersonal attributes. This enables them to develop appropriate proficiencies in good communication, compassion, probity, honesty, and many other lifelong people skills. And they must continue to uphold those skills in all sorts of clinical encounters.

If they slip along the way, supportive mechanisms are usually in place to support them, or retrain them if necessary. Doctors highly skilled with interpersonal attributes perform better, and score higher in patient satisfaction surveys. Those are the kind of doctors you want to patronage.

So what to do if your doctor has bad manners? The simplest way out is to give them the boot. Seek your services elsewhere, you deserve better. But you could also demand better treatment.

Tell them you don’t feel you are being treated well. Say exactly what you find unacceptable, and how you’d wish it to be remedied. Those open to feedback will change their ways, the rigid ones will carry on regardless. But a word of caution though, make sure you aren’t nasty to your doctors too. Sometimes you may just be getting back what you are throwing at them.

Dr Alfred Murage is a Consultant Gynaecologist and Fertility Specialist.

[email protected]

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