Doctors – the Good, the Bad and the Ridiculous

Doctors – we all need them at times. Good doctors are there to help, listen and support us. And thankfully, there are many good doctors in the world. There are doctors who are always prepared to go that extra mile for their patients.

But unfortunately, not all doctors are good.

Doctors : the good, the bad and the ridiculous. Crazy doctor, stethoscope. Doctors say stupid things to patients sometimes.

Bad Medical Advice From Doctors

Some chronic illness sufferers have shared their experiences with me on Twitter and some of their stories are shocking.

Some people have been told their condition is all in their head. Some advised to walk ten miles a day or have a baby to help incurable painful diseases. One person was told, “Well, you’re a woman, you need to expect pain.” And worryingly, one doctor made fun of someone who had been self-harming.

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People shouldn’t accept bad advice or care from a doctor. If a doctor can’t help, we should have a second opinion. But rudeness, bad advice or laughing at us should never be tolerated.

I have good doctors now, but over the years, I’ve had some bad medical advice from doctors and heard some ridiculously stupid statements.

My Trigeminal Neuralgia Diagnosis Took Over 20 Years

Last week I had a story about my trigeminal neuralgia diagnosis published on the Pain Resource website. I had struggled for over twenty years with face pain before getting a diagnosis. I was told to put up with my pain. I was told to just take paracetamol. One dentist found no dental problems but told me my pain was my fault for not cleaning my teeth properly. I had cleaned my teeth as well as I could, despite the searing pain.

Why did I go undiagnosed for so long? Could it have been my fault? Had I not explained my symptoms properly? Or was I simply up against some bad doctors and dentists?

Trigeminal neuralgia. Diagnosed after twenty years of facial and dental pain. Picture - person with face pain.

Ironically, after I was diagnosed by a good dentist and a rheumatologist, I was referred to a neurologist. He questioned the diagnosis. His reason – my hospital record was too thin.

It was thin because doctors and dentists had ignored and dismissed my pain and nobody had referred me to a specialist to have it investigated. He also failed to realise that I’d not lived in the area for long, therefore, it was a new hospital record anyway. So yes, it was thin.

I hadn’t received a diagnosis for over twenty years, then a doctor based his investigation on the size of a hospital record.

Too Young to Worry About Osteoporosis

In my late thirties, I went through an early menopause. I was concerned about developing osteoporosis. Women are more at risk of this after the menopause due to the lack oestrogen hormones. I was already at risk because of my inability to exercise due to my pain.

When I mentioned this to my then GP, I received a patronising look. He told me I was too young to worry about osteoporosis. I discussed it with another doctor in the practice a while later and received the same answer.

When I was forty, we moved house and needed to change our GP practice. I told my new GP that I was concerned about osteoporosis and her words were, “Yes, I agree. I’ll refer you for a DEXA scan to check your bone density.”

Too young to have osteoporosis

I Wasn’t too Young to Have Osteoporosis

It turned out I was right to be concerned. The DEXA scan showed I had osteoporosis. I’ve been on medication for it ever since.

I was Told that my Scoliosis was a Cosmetic Problem

I was ten years old when scoliosis developed in my spine. Whenever they discovered it, my parents took me to the GP. The GP sent an urgent referral to see an orthopaedic surgeon. The surgeon’s words were, “It’s only cosmetic and won’t cause problems.” He then said to me, “if you eat lots of Mars Bars, you’ll put on weight and cover it up.”

My parents trusted his words (apart from the Mars Bars part). He was a well known and respected orthopaedic surgeon. There was no reason to doubt him. And back in the 1970’s in Scotland, people listened and didn’t question doctors. There was no other information available. Local libraries wouldn’t have had books on a complex subject such as scoliosis. And obviously, the internet was non-existent.

Over the next few years, that doctor saw me regularly. My scoliosis changed noticeably and affected my pelvis, but still, he continued to say it was only a cosmetic problem.

Scoliosis, abnormal curvature of spine. Chronic disabling back pain.

By my mid teens, I was getting pain. He arranged for me to be fitted with an orthopaedic corset when I was nineteen. The pain was worsening – it certainly didn’t feel as though this was a cosmetic problem. Then one day, his words to me were :

“I don’t know much about scoliosis. Would you like me to refer you to see a specialist?”


It had taken him nine years to decide that he didn’t know much about scoliosis. Nine years is a long time for a young scoliosis patient. The damage is normally irreversible.

I was referred to a doctor who was one of the world’s leading scoliosis experts at the time. Unfortunately, he could do nothing for me. My Mum asked him if he could have helped me when I was ten. Understandably, he said he couldn’t answer because he hadn’t seen me then.

Scoliosis is Not Just a Cosmetic Problem

In my case, scoliosis has caused me to live with chronic, severe, disabling back pain.

My parents regretted not pushing for another opinion when I was young, but as I said, people didn’t do that back then. The chances are that the specialist might not have been able to help anyway. I was never angry with my parents – they had trusted a supposedly good doctor.

I don’t believe in wasting energy getting angry, annoyed or upset about something from so long ago which can’t be changed. But I have to admit that I often thought of his words, “only a cosmetic problem” when I had to retire due to my back pain when I was 28.

Doctor patient relationship, partnership, work together. Stethoscope, laptop, glasses.

There are Good Doctors too

I have seen some good doctors and other health care practitioners. And many of them do go that extra mile to help me.

The GPs I have now work with me and are happy for me to raise ideas or ask questions. They don’t give me patronising looks or make me feel like a time waster. I’ve never been told by them to just put up with my pain and I’ve certainly never again been advised to eat mars bars!

They understand my level of pain and do what they can to try to help me and are quick to investigate problems when necessary.

Keep Searching for the Right Doctor

If you don’t have a good doctor, keep searching.

Acceptance of pain is fine. Actually, that’s healthy. But acceptance of bad medical practice isn’t right. Nobody should accept that.

Pain is persistent. Patients need to be persistent. Cactus.

Have you come up against bad advice or ridiculous statements from doctors? Please leave a comment below.

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33 thoughts on “Doctors – the Good, the Bad and the Ridiculous

  1. This is such a spot on post – there are some utterly ridiculous, infuriating, ignorant and simply beyond stupid doctors and professionals out there. I had a similar thing with bones, being told I was too young then finding I had osteopenia at 27, just a step away from osteoporosis (but apparently I’m also too young for any treatment, so I guess they think I should wait until they crumble).

    Yikes, the Mars bar comment you had..!! I am so sorry you’ve been through so many awful experiences and had such responses. It can be incredibly dangerous, especially if we’re exhausted, or not very assertive, or just utterly fed up and don’t or can’t continue to fight for better care. I’ve had plenty over the years, too, especially when I kept going back about my stomach issues & constipation – like being told “there’s nothing wrong with me so I should stop trying to find problems where there aren’t any”, to go & eat several kiwis every day, that I’m too young for there to be a problem with my bowel so I’m probably just blowing it all out of proportion, that I’d “grow out” of migraines, that testing for vitamin D was a ridiculous suggestion of mine & I was too young to have anything wrong with my bones either, and so on..

    I feel that, as a chronic illness community, if we put our stories together and amassed the comments we’ve had, we could make the world’s largest book!
    Caz xx

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Caz, I could have written a few more, but my post would have been so long. Yes…a book. Honestly, reading that Twitter thread is shocking.
      I have to say that, I do have good doctors at the moment. I say doctors because whichever GP I see in the practice, I haven’t been let down. They really have been excellent. In particular, the most recent one who just seemed determined to try to find what was causing some of my problems and discovered I had coeliac disease. I had no stomach symptoms, so there was no reason to suspect that.
      There are many good doctors, but as we know, there are some who are definitely not good.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Collecting stories about bad doctoring seems easy. Just go to a doctor’s office; there’s a high probability of adding another story.

    I’d like see stories about good stories and how people–especially people who aren’t wealthy–find them, get scheduled with them, and pay for them. In the U.S.A., all of that seems nearly impossible without a local support group.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yes, it’s feels too easy, because there are too many bad stories. It’s pretty sad.

      I do have good doctors at the moment, and I will be writing another post at some point with hopefully better stories about good experiences.

      How people find them, that’s another post altogether, I guess. And I’m really not sure how people do that in the USA. I’m over in the UK, where we have NHS.

      Like

  3. Kay S

    Bad doctors are a dime a dozen. I had one who didn’t believe in antidepressants- it took a suicide attempt to get help. I have excellent doctors now but it’s random selection to find the good ones, especially if you have poor quality insurance.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Oh boy I can relate. I have thyroid disease am being treated with medication – one doctor who I don’t see anymore because of this, told me I could go off my medication as my levels are good. I said to him, well the reason they are good is because I’m on medication for it. Gosh if I had not understood why and how medication helps I may have done what he said and then gone down that rabbit hole of hell. I have shared on twitter and pinned….

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Kelcie Miller-Anderson

    THIS IS SPOT ON. I was told by a neurologist for years that all that all my problems were just “complex” chronic migraines. Even when I lost my ability to walk he STILL insisted it was all just my migraines. Fast forward to me taking charge of my care and I ended up being diagnosed with a progressive rare disease called Mitochondrial Disease! Sometime I want to email the doctor just to let him how wrong he was and how he missed such a big diagnosis.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. That is shocking. It’s worrying when things are overlooked. We can’t expect a doctor to know everything, but they should investigate and refer you elsewhere when necessary.
      Thanks for commenting.

      Like

  6. sjd68

    In the US we have a few websites where people can rate doctors. One that comes to mind is Healthgrades. It is actually very interesting. I have a co-worker who just went through missed diagnosis that went from Gout to DVT to Thrombophlebitis and back to Gout. Meanwhile, the hospital had him on intravenous IV for 2 weeks. It is always worthwhile to get a second and third opinion, especially in chronic pain cases.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. That’s a really good point, Scott. People should use those rating websites. I know that doctors can’t possibly know everything, but sometimes they do make pretty bad mistakes. If they’re not rated, we’ll never know if the mistake they’ve made with us was just a one off or if they’re in the habit of making them.

      Liked by 1 person

  7. It’s so frustrating when you know something is wrong, and your doctors treat you like you don’t know anything or like it’s all in your head. You are your own best advocate, and you should never stop until you find answers. Good, even excellent, doctors are out there–you just need to find the one that is perfect for you. Unfortunately, you may have to kiss a few frogs before you find your prince.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Trish

    There’s such a power imbalance between doctor and patient that the bad ones often get away with treating their patients terribly. And as generally we go to the doctor when we’re ill, we’re not always in the best state to advocate for ourselves. That ‘don’t question the doctor’ attitude our parents generation had doesn’t help.

    Liked by 1 person

      1. I hate it so much when anyone tells me along the lines of…a woman should get used to pain. This is ridiculous really! Everyone goes through pain due to certain condition. Anyways… I have might a few ‘bad doctors’. I remember they put me on wrong medication once. Later I went to a specialist who treated me properly.😦

        Liked by 1 person

  9. I hate hearing stories about bad doctors. Mostly because there are sooooo many of them! I have a friend who went to the doctor to get a refill on pain meds to manage her fibromyalgia and was told it was all in her head. Just go for a walk, or develop a higher pain tolerance, just deal with it. I had one who wanted to put a family member on a medication for the rest of her life that is clearly labeled “not for long term use.” I mean, all I had to do was read the literature inclosed in the prescription to figure that one out. Why wouldn’t the doctor do the same? All I can encourage anyone to do is speak up when something isn’t right. Keep pushing, seek other opinions. Medical practice is called practice for a reason. Yes, there is a science and guidelines behind it, but it really is a practice to find what works for each individual person.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I always tell people to read those leaflets that come with medication. It’s too easy for a mistake to be made. Totally agree, Erica, we all need to become better at pushing and seeking other opinions.

      Like

  10. I had a bad experience with a doctor who sent me to the ICU because he put me on too much saline. “Trust me I’m a doctor” isn’t a phrase I blindly follow anymore, doctors are still human and they still make mistakes

    Liked by 1 person

  11. Lyosha Varezhkina

    Finding a good doctor is a blessing. it can change your life. Finding a wrong (I don’t say bad) doctor might worsen it. My own doc story is mixed. At one part he did a lot to stabilize me and because of him my condition was good enough. At the other part he didn’t try each way to help me, skipping the basics. Basics helped tons, practically made me on par with healthy people with almost no pain but after years spent ineffective way it takes a lot of time and effort to come to better terms.

    Liked by 1 person

  12. Great catchy title! John’s Hopkins has failed to diagnose my son after nearly 2 years of his suffering. I realize doctors are human, but the ball got dropped so many times and all the red tape…just awful. That’s why second and third opinions are necessary almost always.

    Liked by 1 person

  13. Oh, the stories I could tell about terrible doctors. So many of my family members have suffered unnecessarily because of some of the blind, stubborn, arrogant, ignorance of so-called medical professionals. There was my sister who broke her leg so severely that her tibia started to protrude out from underneath her skin. Doctor said it was ‘just swelling’. My mum was having none of it. A few X-Rays later and the break we all knew she had was confirmed and set and put into a plaster cast. My uncle kept going to the doctor because he was passing blood in his stool. Was told he ‘just had haemorrhoids’ and not to worry. Unfortunately, by the time we got the correct diagnosis of colon cancer, it was too advanced and he passed away. My other half fell off a roof and was taken to casualty, only for the doctors to release him without so much as an X-Ray. I knew immediately upon seeing him that he had a broken back, but the doctor said it was a ‘jarred spine’ that he could ‘walk off soon enough’. I basically immobilised him on the sofa, pumped him full of pain relief and muscle relaxants to keep him still for a week, but when he still wasn’t better I called an ambulance and upon returning to casualty demanded X-Rays for a back I knew was broken. They tried to fob me off. I refused to leave until they X-Rayed him. 30 minutes later we’re being apologised to by a doctor who looks white with terror, as he explains that my other half has broken his back in three places and could have been paralysed if he’d tried to ‘walk it off’. A specialist later told us he would have operated on it had he seem him the day he was admitted, but the delay caused many further problems. Didn’t help when a GP tried to prescribe him a medication that I knew to be contraindicated with one he was already taking. Kinda shocking to have to explain to the person with the alleged qualification that it isn’t safe to take the two items together. Got a very embarrassed look from her as I demanded to go through his entire medication regime and discussed potential additional medications.

    And then there’s me. Been going downhill with fibromyalgia, RA, CP and endometriosis for the past 10 years. Additional fun stuff included a nervous breakdown, clinical depression, crippling anxiety, agoraphobia and general bat-poop insanity, lol. Thing is, I actually had a really good GP originally. An energetic man, who still retained the passion for his career at 60 that he would have had upon leaving medical school, he was incredibly easy to talk with, discuss treatment with and was always looking to find proactive approaches to alleviating my various symptoms. Together we worked through a bunch of medications to find a really good combination of anti-depressants, anti-anxiety meds, sleeping meds, pain meds and some mefanemic acid for the female fun times. Things weren’t great but they were manageable. I felt listened to; understood; cared about. That doctor was the kind of GP we all dream about. Of course he was head-hunted to go oversee the opening of a new comprehensive health-centre across the water where he would get to use his wealth of experience, ambition, energy and awesome people skills to help make this new centre a success. I cried when he left. There were hugs and thanks and I got him a very nice bottle of single malt to see him off because he’d told me he liked to indulge in the occasional wee dram when relaxing on a weekend. I was broken hearted to see him go, but knew that he had a lot of good to go on and do in the world.

    And of course, the universe being the absolute mischief-machine that it is, decided to replace my beloved GP with a rude, uninterested, cold, negligent creep who upon meeting me the first time, looked over my carefully perfected medicine regime and just decided on a whim that he should half the amount of pain meds I was taking (because there’s an epidemic of opiate abuse going on, dontcha know? Grr!) and get rid of one of the mood stabilisers because two of them, twice a day, at ceiling dose level, was just unnecessary. I didn’t know this man. Had never met him before. He hadn’t earned my trust or gained my confidence. I had no way of finding my voice and was able to offer only the smallest of protestations about how I didn’t think it was a good idea to suddenly stop an SSRI without tapering. He blustered over me about how I wouldn’t even notice what with all the other medications I was taking. I left with a prescription that I knew wouldn’t keep me at the somewhat even-ish keel I’d managed to find with my previous GP.

    That appointment was on a Friday afternoon. By Monday morning I was practically up on the ceiling, petrified, experiencing mild hallucinations and intense ‘brain zaps’ that both scared and upset me. I refused to be seen by the same GP. Was taken in to see another guy who was obviously really shocked to see this mess of a person in front of them…and more shocked at the way in which I’d had my medications so abruptly messed with by the new GP. Fast forward a year and I’ve had to make a formal complaint about that GP. It wasn’t just a clash of personalities, a problem with him readjusting to a new patient base or a misunderstanding. He turned up to the job and seemed intent on wanting to make some kind of impact in the role. He definitely did that. He’s now hated universally by everyone except those people who only have to visit the doctor once a year for a check-up, an in-grown toenail or to have their flu jab. The pharmacy next door hears all of the horror stories about his behaviour and attitude…and now he has the quietest surgery of all the GPs. Those who know him, won’t go to see him. He spends most of his day signing off of the repeat prescription requests for the entire clinic and going out on-call when summoned. We’ve even had a special ‘feedback survey’ created specifically just for our clinic (not the group of clinics in the area) asking us to tell the practice manager about our satisfaction levels and any concerns we have. Hopefully he wont be there much longer. It’s not like he helps with the patient workload….not when people ring up and specifically indicate that they will NOT see Dr ‘X’.

    Thankfully I’m back on my original medication regime, under the care of a GP who is by no means a patch on my original heaven-sent doctor, but who will at least discuss treatment plans with me and won’t suddenly up and cancel a particular drug. I’m still a wobbly, sore, demented lunatic with a slew of medical complaints and conditions, but at least I’m not the subject of medical malpractice by despotic little sadist anymore. Small mercies! Anyway, this was a ridiculously long rant…but you did say that this post was about the good the bad and the ridiculous. I’ve definitely experienced all three. Thanks for giving me the chance to vent about this though. Saves me taking it out on the binman because he forgets to close the lid on our wheelie-bin, eh? Take care, Bex x

    Liked by 1 person

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