Momentum is building within the chronic illness community and as the numbers reach epidemic proportions we are rapidly becoming the majority and becoming a formidable voting block as well.
As patients we are taking our health into our own hands and insisting upon the respect and dignity we deserve in forging our own path to wellness…and on our terms. As we become more and more educated the traditional medical hierarchy is increasingly proving to be outdated and non-applicable given the current state of affairs.
This is our life and our body that we live with 24/7. The doctor who treats or fails to treat can go home and turn his mind to other things, whereas whatever treatment decisions are made will follow us, the patients, when we return home. These decisions and the orders or lack thereof surrounding them often determine our level of relief or suffering. Our doctors, (while well-meaning in the best case scenario) cannot fully ever grasp what we deal with on a day-to-day-basis, so in fairness they need to acknowledge and give reverence to the truth that nobody can know the workings of our selves better than we ourselves.
There are many things no medical textbook can teach you.
In the real world organs in the body don’t always work that way, and to insist on believing they must is to deny the patients’ very humanity. One cannot approach the human body the way a mechanic approaches a car. We are much more complex than that. Human beings are both consistent and inconsistent. That is what makes us human. Unlike machines we feel everything that is done and not done to our bodies and to our minds. This in turn adds to our physiology for better or for worse.
A good and wise doctor understands that he/she must not ever eclipse the patient, but instead be a good facilitator and advocate for that individual and always fulfill a supportive role throughout the course of the patients’ life, not to decree, mandate, or gate-keep, but to pave the way for their patient’s own individualized path to healing to the best of their ability, to remove obstacles and never to create them. The patient, especially the complex chronically ill patient’s life is hard enough. The goal should always be to make it easier.
Ethics demands that the doctor/patient relationship in today’s modern society be one of equals, a partnership toward a common goal, while always remaining mindful that the patient has the final say in the body which the patient alone owns. This philosophy must also extend further than the office of the primary care physician and carry over into all areas where medical professionals exist.
Doctors, healthcare systems, medical schools, conferences, and regulatory decision-making bodies can no longer afford to shut us out, put us off, nor deny us an equal place at the table. We are becoming a force to be reckoned with and a strong source of information not only of help to ourselves and our fellow patients but also to doctors, residency programs, and continuing education programs. It is often we, the patients who dig up the research papers, find the links, and connect the dots our doctors don’t have the time or interest to seek out.
We, the patients notice shifts and changes in our bodies that provide clues the doctor might otherwise completely miss. Without clinical symptom monitoring and record-keeping a doctor often has no way to know even what tests to run or where to start looking. Listening to the patient is probably the most important part of reaching an accurate diagnosis. This is why it’s so much more difficult to treat animals and small children because they can’t tell you what’s wrong.
This is also why perceiving a patient as an unreliable source is so dangerous. They are capable of telling you what’s wrong but if you don’t believe them on a core level you are dismissing and/or throwing out important information you need in order to assess, diagnose, and treat them.
For true equality to happen first doctors and the institutions that train them must acknowledge the need for change.
It is one thing to be ignorant of new knowledge, but quite another to refuse to allow it in and instead stubbornly hold onto one’s ignorance.