Last Saturday, I was feeling sick and visited the emergency room at Chestnut Hill Hospital. I arrived at 11:45PM and told the triage nurse that I was suffering from extreme neck pain, dizziness, and nausea. At 3AM, I was finally examined by a staff member, to whom I repeated the same list of symptoms. Around 5AM, I was awakened by a doctor shining a bright light in my face. After making sure I could feel my arms, he asked how I injured my neck. Before I could answer, he cut me off and said “I’ve heard enough. Do you want an x-ray or not?” I told him that I had already been x-rayed, at which point he indicated that he would return shortly and finish his examination.

At approximately 6:30AM, another staff member handed me a prescription for muscle relaxers and ibuprofen along with discharge papers that said “You have been diagnosed with neck pain.” I explained that I already knew I had neck pain, and was more concerned about not being able to walk or drive because of my persistent dizziness and increasing nausea. After several minutes of prodding, they agreed to convince the doctor to come back and actually examine me.

When he returned, the doctor was both confrontational and condescending. Nearly shouting, he starting to enumerate an exhaustive list of procedures that he had already conducted, none of which actually happened. The doctor then snatched the papers from the staffer and threatened to take the prescription back because of my “complaining.” Frustrated but weak, I calmly explained that I simply wanted to make sure that he fully understood the range of my symptoms. At this point, the doctor became more enraged, alternately barking “What do you want me to do?” and mockingly stating “You’re not gonna die!” When I reiterated my desire for help, he deadpanned “Do you want the prescription or not?” I told him that I did, at which point he coldly replied “Then go home.” The doctor then turned around and walked away. As I exited the building, the staff member whispered to me that this behavior was common for the doctor.

Did the doctor think that I was fishing for drugs? Perhaps. Would he have treated me differently if he knew I was a college professor? Probably. Was he a racist? I don’t know, but it’s worth noting that he wasn’t white. What happened to me at Chestnut Hill Hospital is disturbing, but not uncommon. Every day, the nation’s most vulnerable citizens are abused, dehumanized, and underserved in hospitals around the country. Even if the diagnosis  is correct, a doctor’s failure to maintain an ethic of compassion, concern, and care leaves a patient feeling unsafe and unwelcome. This is a truly sickening reality.

58 thoughts on “

  1. RJ Snyder, aside from my personal experiences (as well as the experiences of others with whom I’m acquainted) with medical professionals, PICK UP A BOOK or DO SOME RESEARCH–and you will have all the answers to your questions. Damn!

  2. Who would think that a person who spent 8+ years learning the human body inside and out would have people skills? It’s like they actually have to care about you or something. I mean what ever happened to the customer is always right? I did not know that if you were in a medical situation you are exempt from this. If you paid cash out for their service I would bitch to the hospital. If your insurance covered it, let them know, they go out of their way not to have to pay for things.

  3. I’m still curious about the race bit. Was he Hindu (read: Indian)? I find that Hindus tend to have somewhat a propensity to be hostile to Negroes. In my many encounters with 1st generation and immigrant South Asians, I have noticed that the monotheists (from Pakistan, Bangladesh, Punjab, Goa, and Kerala) are much more respectful to me and other non-whites, whereas the Hindus treat me with a fair amount of disdain, refuse, argumentatively, to listen to my prescriptions (although I’m in a position of authority), and have on many occasions solicited a “better opinion” from my white subordinates who always, in turn, refer them back to me…. which they hate.

  4. Well, speaking as a registered nurse (yes, it is my first and beloved vocation) I’m very sorry to hear that this happened to you. I have to believe it wasn’t personal because Chestnut Hill Health System is a quality healthcare facility. That said, the doctor may have been under a lot of stress. who knows what was happening somewhere else in the facility beyond your purview. Take it from me, ER staff all have their moments as was expressed earlier by John (#11, #12).
    Despite appearances Physicians, nursing staff, and technicians aren’t as plentiful as it appears. On top of healthcare being a demanding field it isn’t unusual for emergency rooms to be short staffed. The long waits are not on purpose. Ideally the stress healthcare practitioners choose is maintained behind a cordial and congenial manner, but it doesn’t always workout that way needless to say. I totally agree. There is no excuse for his behaviour and, while it is your choice, it would be in the best interests of yourself and others to call him and the passive staff to task. When we recognize such behaviour as you’ve experienced in ourselves, we know it’s time to pick another stress. Perhaps this is the case with Dr. Mean. No one should be subject to such treament. It is unethical on several levels.

  5. And go to your family doctor. Not a diagnosis, but it sounds like migraine symptoms. Sometimes people get nausea from the intensity of head and neck pain. But it wouldn’t be unheard of for a doctor to percribe an MRI.

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