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When Doctors Get Sick.


This is an anthology of fifty doctors relating their experiences as patients. Each one was hospitalized for a serious illness. Some could not accept the docile role that attending physicians expect from their patients. Others surrendered all resistance and reverted to childlike subservience.

Several of the chapters deal with mental illness; but among professionals the description needs "sanitizing," so the diagnosis became "neuropsychiatric disorder."

Doctors have a peculiar occupational disease: they bask in the admiration of their patients who believe in the god-like powers of physicians. The doctor himself has no such illusions, although his resentment toward those who question his omniscience flares up frequently. The conflict can have mental repercussions, thus the high rate of mental problems among doctors.

Add to that brew the high rate of alcoholism, drug use and irregular lifestyle that afflicts the busy practitioner. Life in the professional lane can be treacherous.

As a patient, the doctor's passive situation can be intolerable. Physicians dwell on the terrible powerlessness of being a patient and on the agonizing search for certainty in diagnosis. Now they are able to understand their patients' bewilderment when they had to admit that the prognosis was unclear.

These doctors were also appalled by the power that interns and junior doctors had over their lives. Being passed from one consultant to another brought the shocking realization of personal guilt, how many times they dealt with indifference to their patients' anxiety.

For those who had the misfortune to need treatment from more than one specialty, they had to endure the experience of being a parcel passed from one consultant to another.

Lack of bodily privacy in hospital bathing and toileting suddenly brought the reality of "warehousing" to most of the doctors interviewed. When they did the shuffling, it didn't seem so impersonal.

The book will contribute much insight for the doctor who has never been a patient but is fully engaged in hospital service. Its ability to transport the reader into shocking reality may make physicians much more considerate practitioners.
COPYRIGHT 1989 Vegetus Publications
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1989 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Publication:Nutrition Health Review
Article Type:Book Review
Date:Jan 1, 1989
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