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The Powerless Patient Syndrome - why do patients continue going to doctors they don't like ?

Posted Oct 23 2009 10:02pm
It always amazes me that even patients who are very unhappy with their doctor continue to stick with him ! I can understand why this would happen in public hospitals, where the poor patient has no choice. But why do private patients who pay their doctor good money to get good quality service put up with a doctor's bad behaviour and unprofessionalism ?

I feel there are may reasons.

For one, patients have already invested a lot of time, money and energy in getting treatment for their present doctor. This is a sunk cost which they need to recover and they are not very happy about writing it off.

Secondly, they need to console ( ? delude) themselves that they have made the right choice and are very reluctant to spend more energy trying to look for a better option.

Others just don't want to accept reality. Just like an abused wife, who feels she is trapped in a bad marriage, they feel they are powerless and are not able to get out of a bad doctor-patient relationship.

Some are scared of the doctor and don't want to upset him. The doctor "knows my case" and has all my medical records - how can I go anywhere else ? I'll have to start all over from scratch !

A few feel that the secret to getting better is to leave everything upto the doctor and just blindly follow his orders, no matter what ! They would never dream of using their own initiative or asking questions, leave alone walking out ! They feel that by deserting the doctor, they are being "bad patients" because they are being unfaithful or disloyal.

Some become "co-dependent" They put up with an abusive doctor, because they have become conditioned to a doctor's bad behaviour and feel this is " normal."

Others are worried that they may go from the frying pan into the fire - after all, there is no certainty that the new doctor will be any better !

Finally, some have never experienced how a good doctor takes care of his patients, so they are happy with the status quo because they do not know any better ! They feel that waiting times of over 3 hours are the norm and that all doctors make their patients wait endlessly. They put up with this because all the other patients do so as well - the Indian herd mentality at work. In fact, some perversely believe that the fact the doctor makes you wait so long means he is very busy, which just confirms what a good doctor he is !

It is true that it takes effort to get out of a bad doctor-patient relationship. My point is that it's well worth making the effort to do so. It's not that hard - and it's quite likely that your new doctor will do a much better job. After all, he is likely to be flattered that you selected him over your existing doctor, and will do his best to earn your trust !
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