Yesterday, one of my neighbors and his wife stopped by to say hello and invite Renee over for tea with the girls. This was the first time we had gotten together with this couple and it was a delightful experience. For the purpose of this article, I’ll call him Mr. G for genius (and because I can’t remember his name right now).
In a short time, I discovered that G is a teacher, author and musician. As is the usual for older people, the conversation drifted toward the medical field and G talked about the importance of having a physician for a partner in the management of his health. I want to thank G for coming up with the idea for this article.
In past articles, I’ve discussed the doctor-patient relationship. In my mind, the doctor-patient relationship was a sacred bond, every bit as sacred as that of a holy man and his congregants. At least, that was the way I used to look at it. Having transitioned from a doctor to a chronically ill patient, my new viewpoint has shifted (with the help of my new neighbor) and I’ve discovered a new truth.
I now believe that the doctor-patient relationship needs to be redesigned and called the Patient-Doctor Relationship. Changing the order of those two words makes a huge difference. In both versions, there is a partnership formed between doc and patient. The difference is who is the managing partner. From where I stand today, I can tell you that the patient should be and should have been the managing partner.
Yes, my role should have been strictly as a consultant, advising my patient in all medical options and consequences of those options (informed consent). Therefore, the patient’s role should be to make the ultimate decision of what he/she was going to do.
One of the great mysteries of medical practice has always been the patients who both sought my advice and then ignored it. Perhaps, had I given them the role of managing partner, they would have chosen differently. I know that, in my new role of patient, I am more likely to listen and follow my doc’s advice if I am in control, as opposed to if it is an edict from on high.
Being in control of yourself is extremely important on multiple levels. My most feared consequence of Parkinson’s is loss of control over myself and my affairs. Doctors beware, do everything possible to leave your patients in control for as long as possible! Patients beware! If you have a disease that will ultimately steal your ability to control your own life, make sure that, while you are in control, you leave detailed instructions for who is going to take control of you and how you want them to proceed.
Personally, if Parkinson’s dementia or some other disease takes away my ability to control my own life, my orders will be to let me die a natural death. In the old days, we died from natural causes as we had no treatment for much of what ails us. Accordingly, a natural death means that all treatments/medications are stopped. In modern times, we treat everything and keep patients alive at all costs, moving them into long term care facilities where they languish, awaiting their death which we hold at bay.
Now, we really need a joke to get the foul taste this morbid paragraph leaves behind out of your mouth.
“He’s so old that when he orders a three-minute egg, they ask for the money up front.”—MILTON BERLE
A worried father calls the family doctor because he thinks his teen son has caught a venereal disease.
“I think he got it from the maid,” says the concerned dad, “and I’ve also been sleeping with the maid.”
“Okay,” the doctor replies calmly. “Well, when you bring him into the office we’ll take a look at you as well.”
“And that’s not all,” the father continues. “I think I might have given it to his mother.”
“Oh, no!” cries the doctor. “Well, now we might all have it!”
“Everything that used to be a sin is now a disease.”—BILL MAHER