Can You Trust Your Doctor? A Medical Heretic Exposes the Medical Mystique
Most people value their doctors very highly. They want their doctors to be objective, scientific, distanced, yet caring, compassionate, and sensitive. In short, they want doctors who are healing saints rather than people.
It makes sense that people would want that from their doctors. When you lie on the exam table and the doctor examines your anus, vagina, penis, or some other embarrassing organ, you want to believe that the person doing this to you is pure, healthy, honest, competent, and doing what is the best for you. They don’t want to think that the doctor is a pervert with a degree and a license to abuse.
Well I’m afraid I have bad news for you. I was in medicine and I know it.
Put yourself in the shoes of a doctor. He or she used to be a layman just like you. They went to kindergarten and elementary school and did what they were told, learned how to take exams and get the answers they expected, and got good grades as a result. They did this until they went to medical school. They were selected based on their grades and test scores.
Some positions require applicants to take personality tests to give an indication of their character. Are you antisocial, are you honest, would you steal? You want to know this about employees before you give them a job. However, there is no such test of character for those applying for the job of doctor. Applicants are selected through academic tests. And these people are entrusted with human lives.
Would getting good grades in chemistry, physics, or math make you a great doctor? Of course not. Does knowledge of physiology, anatomy, and biochemistry make you compassionate? They may make you a good physiologist, anatomist, or biochemist, but they have nothing to do with compassion. With most medical science relying heavily on cruel animal testing, and with millions of dogs, cats, monkeys, rats, and other animals tortured and killed each year, nothing is further from compassion than the field of medicine.
In fact, medical education is deliberately designed to desensitize laypeople to blood and guts so they can become doctors. Dealing with sick people, sometimes with severe pain, anxious, anxious, helpless, requires a cool head. It’s important for doctors to keep calm when everyone else is overwhelmed. In the real world, of course, you have to learn to stay cool and collected in a crisis. Since the medical student is selected based solely on test scores, most students fail to live up to this ideal. If all you had to do with patients is get their medical histories in writing and take a test of what drug to give them, that wouldn’t be a problem for doctors, especially if the tests are multiple-choice tests common in medical school for medical license examinations.
But healthcare requires different skills and personalities than just taking multiple-choice tests. This is why there are so many specialties in medicine for students to choose from. Medical studies last four years. The first two years are textbooks and laboratories. For the last two years, you can try different medical specialties for a few weeks to months to see what suits you. Some people like the thrill of a crisis. They usually go to emergency medicine. They enjoy the adrenaline rush of a heart attack or car accident. They don’t like it when people die slowly from chronic diseases and drug side effects. They prefer quick medical fixes to long-term commitments. Come by, get a doctor’s appointment and be referred to another doctor for follow-up care.
Others who get a jerk from stress are operated on. Imagine the rush you feel when you cut open a stranger’s chest, blood splattering everywhere, nurses giving you clamps to stop the flow of blood, machines that respond more quickly to the patient’s pulse and breathing, sweat from your dripping Forehead being wiped by the nurse, the anesthetist warns that the patient is in cardiac arrest, and meanwhile you stay above the fray in your outward demeanor, making dirty jokes with the nurses and talking to the anesthesiologist about timeshare resorts. What a job!
For those who prefer to be more like the old doctor, there is family medicine. You see children, parents, pregnant mothers, old people, the whole range of humanity and with all kinds of problems. When push comes to shove, you just send them to another specialist. People can trust you and tell you their life secrets. This is medicine lite, a great specialty for relaxed people.
I remember a GP I went to for a checkup on my 30th birthday, at a time in my life before I got into medicine and when I still believed in routine checkups. He performed a thorough exam, including a rectal exam to look for an enlarged prostate and other signs of inflammation. I didn’t expect it. “Pull down your pants and bend over,” he told me. He was a tall, blond, handsome doctor, about six feet tall, unmarried but apparently straight. “Is that really necessary?” I asked. “Yup.” So I leaned forward, spilled some Vaseline on it, and went inside, puckering my dissatisfaction. “How’s your sex life?” he asked while pausing inside to get his bearings. “Fine,” I replied, slightly annoyed that he had done it. I don’t even invite myself to lunch.
Not long after I was admitted to medical school. Before I started teaching, I went to a local low-income health clinic as a volunteer in hopes of gaining more experience. They dressed me in a white lab coat, called me a “student doctor,” and in no time I was performing a pelvic exam on an 18-year-old woman. The doctor did the exam first, then had me feel for the cervix while I uncomfortably slipped my gloved hand into the strange woman’s faintly smelling vagina. My lay time came to an end. I’ve already been granted access to people’s bodies.
Some guys would have been jealous, I suppose, as long as pus doesn’t turn you off. Imagine what kind of guys become gynecologists. You can tell the women to undress for them all day, all kinds of women. Then they are allowed to put their fingers in her vagina and anus and feel her breasts. They want their patients to feel like experts on women, even though they’re only men and have never had a period, wore a bra, or had a strange man examine their vagina.
Of course, this specialty also has a downside. What would it do to your feelings about women if you had to examine pus-filled, smelly, diseased vaginas every day? Do you reflexively reach for gloves and lube when your wife falls in love?
While most gynecologists are men, urologists are not overwhelmingly women. Women are willing to have their genitals examined by a strange doctor. But most men would feel strange if a doctor examined their penis. Of course, it also feels strange when a man examines your penis. What kind of man is attracted to urology and a lifelong specialty in dealing with penile and prostate issues?
The same can be required of proctologists. Imagine if you were a medical student and found it exciting to work with the rectum and colon. What would it do to your sense of humanity to see butts all day, year after year?
As you can see, choosing a specialty could be difficult. If you are truly an idealistic person and you came to medicine to end suffering, you will experience disappointment and sadness. I know a rheumatologist who could no longer bear to see her patients slowly dying and could not do much to alleviate their suffering. She decided to change specialties and become an anesthesiologist so that all her patients would be unconscious and she wouldn’t have to get to know them personally.
These medical students, who don’t fit any other scheme and are a bit odd themselves, usually become psychiatrists, escaping the blood and guts by seeking the mind. Psychiatrists, being paragons themselves, often feel great emotional relief and increased self-esteem simply by listening to other people’s problems all day, making psychiatry very therapeutic for the physician. This is a particularly attractive specialty for medical students who like LSD or peyote and have stayed high for most of their undergraduate science education. You can really get caught up in people’s twisted fantasies and hallucinations. But beware the power-hungry psychiatrist. They can call you crazy, lock you up, and drug you for the rest of your life if they want.
In fact, doctors have all sorts of powers over the public. They are licensed to practice on people with drugs and surgeries. As a doctor, you can accidentally kill a patient or make it look like an accident and get away with it if you can show that it was standard medical procedure. And you can even bill the deceased patient’s estate for services. Well, that’s power. This power is attractive to some people, which is why they became doctors in the first place. Of course, as in politics, anyone drawn to power is exactly the kind of person it shouldn’t have. People who grow up wanting to be called “doctors” all the time, and who have the power, money, and prestige that our culture bestows on doctors, are not necessarily the best people to treat patients fairly, empathetically, and with the patient’s interests in mind treat . These doctors do not serve the health needs of their patients. The patients serve the electricity needs of their doctor.
Along with the power of medicine comes money. Medicine is above all a business. It deals with the treatment of disease, which means the doctor is best at recognizing when you are sick, not when you are healthy. This makes the doctor, like the auto mechanic, invest in your breakdown. It means that the doctor is invested in disease and treatment and is the enemy of health and prevention. If you studied medicine to help heal humanity, this sad fact about medicine’s fundamental financial impulses may be enough to make you give up the profession. It made me stop. It also made me realize that if you want to be healthy, you have to stop doing things that make you sick, including visiting the doctor.
So the next time you are examined, remember that the person doing the examination is no different from everyone else. They are not necessarily saints who vow poverty to treat the sick and prevent disease. They are not necessarily unbiased, objective, mature people who can distance their personal feelings from their work. They’re just regular people who have been given a license to practice on you. They have the same perversions, prejudices, stupidities, self-interests and pettiness as the rest of humanity, but are drawn to the lucrative and powerful disease business.
Thanks to Sydney Ross Singer