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Trisha Torrey

CNN/Time Dr. Haig's Own Misdiagnosis

By November 24, 2007

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Much has been made of Dr. Scott Haig's article in CNN/Time Magazine's article called, "When the Patient is a Googler." It seems a patient with a problem knee made an appointment to see Dr. Haig, and armed with information she pulled from the internet, she asked some questions he objected to.

The New York Times noted the article. Here on About.com, Mary Shoman, the Thyroid Guide, took exception to Dr. Haig's firing of his patient. Mary believes Dr. Haig is intimidated by an empowered patient. I understand why she sees it that way because that's what the headline would lead us to believe.

I see it differently. In fact, I believe Dr. Haig misdiagnosed his own relationship with the patient. I think he dismissed his patient not because she was a googler, or even an empowered patient. Instead, I think he dismissed her because she was obnoxious and rude, and was waiting for someone -- anyone -- to tell her what she wanted to hear, instead of facing the reality of her knee problem. Dr. Haig wasn't towing her wishful thinking line. She treated him like there was something wrong with him, instead of facing the reality that something was indeed wrong with both her knee AND her attitude.

When it comes to a collaborative relationship between doctors and patients, it's all about respect. In this case, neither doctor nor patient was being very respectful. It's better they won't work together because without respect there won't be compliance either. And without compliance, there will be no improvement to either that patient's knee OR that doctor-patient relationship.

December 3, 2007 at 2:10 pm
(1) Mary Shomon says:

Welcome Trisha! Great to have you at About, covering such an important and much-needed topic as patient empowerment!

To clarify, I didn’t take exception with his firing his patient. As noted in my commentary, I felt that referring to patients as “brainsuckers” and “bozos” was highly unprofessional. And by selecting “Susan,” a patient who was nightmarish (not in her overuse of Google, but in her personal behavior) I felt that Haig deliberately selected an incompetent, annoying patient to “represent” what he views as a typical Googler. He was attempting to conflate the idea of being a Googler with the idea of a rude, obnoxious patient who can’t listen, doesn’t take advice, brings screaming toddlers to the appointment, and is a busybody about his personal information.

January 8, 2008 at 10:59 am
(2) Barbara E, says:

I went home & Googled my ailment recently after my Dr. freaked over ny high blood pressure reading. He had almost an accusatory manner about it all, as if I failed to take my BP meds correctly. (Why wouldn’t I? I’d taken them for 32 years & they had become ingrained in my daily regimen & mucho money wasted on them I might add. :-( I have uncontrollable hypertension & hypokaelemia – low blood potassium. Those are the words I Googled & learned I could have hyperaldosteronism- an abundance of the hormone aldosterone coming from my adrenal glands which sit of top of the kidneys. I brought a printout of what I thought my problem could be & presented it to my doctor who then did a blood test & found that yes, my aldosterone was elevated. He then referred me to a nephrologist who did many different tests plus a renal vein sampling procedure which proved I did have Conn’s Syndrome – primary aldosteronism. I am now currently awaiting surgery for the adenoma tumor on my left adrenal gland of which removal will give me a very good chance of curing my hypertension.
Why a patient who has hypokaelemia & uncotrollable high blood pressure isn’t a bell ringer for an M.D. and more diagnoses aren’t forthcoming is a mystery to me. Doctors should listen to their patients who are interested in their own health & wish to be helpmates to them instead of producing articles demeaning these types of patients. Aren’t people intimidated enough by doctors as it is? I didn’t read Haig’s article but agree that a patient should present any Internet information in a polite way. Haig’s article may have led me at first glance of your article about him to believe his ego had something to do with his firing a patient. I didn’t realize he was complaining about an obnoxious patient until reading more about here.

We can work together with our doctors, that is, if we’re not the type of person who walks into any doctor’s office clueless, threwing our hands in the air, & demanding to be “cured.” Doctors, all their all their busy lives, should welcome patients like that. As my primary care physician did.

A bit of Health 101 wouldn’t be wasted on all our young children in kindergarten — I believe that its never too early to start learning about our role in having healthy bodies.

February 22, 2008 at 12:36 pm
(3) Margaret B says:

For some reason “Doctors” have egos out of this world and do not like to be questioned. If you find a real MD hold on to said MD forever-they are few and far between. Dr. Haig’s attitude is quite pervasive among medical community-I speak from experience and I have never been impatient, rude or obnoxious, I simply brought my family medical history, my own medical history and documented evidence-90% of them dismissed my evidence and attempted to treat me for imaginary illnesses when the obvious was staring them in the face-I the patient wasn’t supposed to know what was wrong with me or have any idea.

November 4, 2013 at 7:12 pm
(4) Leigh says:

A lot of doctors, you can’t tell them anything. You’d think they learned it all in medical school and kept up with every new development since, read every journal article, clinical trial, information-sharing forum, attended every meeting in their specialty in every country for every year (NOT). They’re really annoyed by patients who try to offer information. Reminds me of a hick country I lived in for 8 years where using 4-syllable words would put their backs up because it made them feel defensive. If you cannot pretend well enough to be deferential, trusting and totally ignorant, they will start smirking at the very least, patronizing the hell out of you all the time, and becoming angry or impatient at you at the very worst. They rarely listen to what you are actually trying to say, they don’t want to look at any information you bring, and almost always assume you have an IQ of 70 and don’t know a thing. They’re paranoid and hostile if you try to press for further information because you already know a certain amount and what you want is a more specific level of it. I personally don’t think that it’s possible to play sweet and dumb enough not to put their backs up. At this point I see most of them as very expensive and arrogant “gatekeepers” for medicines and procedures to which patients seek access and avoid going to them unless I have no other option.

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