How to Complain: Blame the Physician, Dammit!

Drugs don’t damage people; physicians who prescribe them do.  Yesterday I read several messages that focused my attention on the fact that we’re blaming the drugs, not the physicians who prescribe them.  Seroquel, Xanax, lithium and all those other things that turn people into mutants—or dead—those are not things that we pick up at the store between the Brussels sprouts and the beef tips.

They are things physicians write orders for us to take.  A physician with a prescription pad is a person pointing a loaded gun at you.  When the gun goes off, don’t blame the gun.

(Psychologists and psychiatrists are both doctors, however only psychiatrists are physicians with prescriptive power, therefore psychologists are exempt from this discussion. Psychologists are doctors who listen to you.)

People go to medical school and are taught about the body and how drugs change the body.  They get an education; they learn.  Then they go out and prescribe drugs and do not question the consequences.  In a quarter century of going to physicians, taking drugs, and having side effects, not once did any physician check the Physician’s Desk Reference [PDR] to see if the things I was experiencing were side effects of the drugs they were prescribing.  Once, a physician pulled out the PDR, not to check the side effects but to make sure that the pharmacist had filled the prescription correctly.  Physicians are so close-minded that they cannot entertain the idea that their wonderful prescription drugs could be hurting you.

Physicians do not question the effects of the drugs they prescribe. They also do not know the side effects.  My neighborhood public library branch—not the big main library—had a book that explained that my hands were turning black as a form of “false Reynaud’s” caused by lithium.  My physician, who went to medical school, did not know.

In addition to not knowing and not checking, physicians also don’t listen to their patients.  A well-dressed, poised elderly woman who lived in my apartment building started sitting on a bench out front, spending hours watching the traffic go by.  She was born into the last generation whose habits were formed before television and other technological entertainment.  Like my mother, she was an avid reader who entertained herself with good books.

The lady went to the physician for some problem and he prescribed a steroid.  After a few days, she began to have trouble with her eyesight.  She called the physician, who told her that she needed to keep taking the drug, then he went on vacation.  By the time he returned ten days later, the lady’s vision was permanently damaged.  She had lived a life of books; now she will never read another word for the rest of her life.  The physician never tried to change her drug, or give her a choice between her disease and her eyesight.

There was an on-line discussion a couple years ago among psychiatric residents.  It posed the question of whether Dr. Peter Breggin is a quack because he hasn’t produced any major research reports published in peer-reviewed journals.  These young pups have absolutely no concept of the value of listening to the patient, which is what Dr. Breggin does.  Currently, physicians wants their knowledge to be pre-digested and published by strangers; they do not want to get down in the trenches with their patients and actually feel what they’re going through.  Have you ever been to a physician who isn’t holding you at arm’s length? 

Physicians do not want to experience you as a real person.  They don’t want to get involved with you; they don’t want to know your pain.  After medical school, continuing education should be coming through feedback from the patient.  Contemporary physicians have not been taught to learn from their patients.  Any knowledge acquired directly from paying attention to the patient is invalid.  Only research—often subsidized by pharmaceutical companies, perverted by biased investigators, and reported by journals that exclude most submissions—are considered valid sources of information.

I went to a neurologist who performed some very painful test on me that involved sticking lots of needles in places that hurt.  The test was punctuated by my cries of pain.  Finally the physician said, “How can I do this test if you keep crying out?”  What he meant was, “How can I do this when you confront me with the fact that I’m causing pain?”  He wanted me to be quiet so he wouldn’t have to acknowledge himself as a hurtful person.  The patient and the physician may agree that the test is painful but important enough to suffer the pain, but that is entirely different from the physician being protected from the knowledge that he is causing severe pain.  He is, and he must deal with it.

You go to the physician and tell him how your health has changed since he last saw you.  You are—often without knowing it—reporting side effects of the drugs he’s prescribing.  The physician is supposed to know it.  He is supposed to know that your discomfort is being caused by his drugs.  If he doesn’t know it, he should suspect it and check the PDR.  He doesn’t do it—and you end up blind, with kidney failure, or having your foot amputated.  And then what do you do?

That, my fellow patients, is what we will cover in a review of the Office of Professional Medical Conduct—in New York State, that is the agency that is supposed to hold physicians accountable for their actions, including the drugs they prescribe.  Drugs don’t damage people; physicians who prescribe them do.  Stick with me and I’ll teach you how to file a complaint against your physician’s license.

About annecwoodlen

I am a tenth generation American, descended from a family that has been working a farm that was deeded to us by William Penn. The country has changed around us but we have held true. I stand in my grandmother’s kitchen, look down the valley to her brother’s farm and see my great-great-great-great-great-grandmother Hannah standing on the porch. She is holding the baby, surrounded by four other children, and saying goodbye to her husband and oldest son who are going off to fight in the Revolutionary War. The war is twenty miles away and her husband will die fighting. We are not the Daughters of the American Revolution; we were its mothers. My father, Milton C. Woodlen, got his doctorate from Temple University in the 1940’s when—in his words—“a doctorate still meant something.” He became an education professor at West Chester State Teachers College, where my mother, Elizabeth Hope Copeland, had graduated. My mother raised four girls and one boy, of which I am the middle child. My parents are deceased and my siblings are estranged. My fiancé, Robert H. Dobrow, was a fighter pilot in the Marine Corps. In 1974, his plane crashed, his parachute did not open, and we buried him in a cemetery on Long Island. I could say a great deal about him, or nothing; there is no middle ground. I have loved other men; Bob was my soul mate. The single greatest determinate of who I am and what my life has been is that I inherited my father’s gene for bipolar disorder, type II. Associated with all bipolar disorders is executive dysfunction, a learning disability that interferes with the ability to sort and organize. Despite an I.Q. of 139, I failed twelve subjects and got expelled from high school and prep school. I attended Syracuse University and Onondaga Community College and got an associate’s degree after twenty-five years. I am nothing if not tenacious. Gifted with intelligence, constrained by disability, and compromised by depression, my employment was limited to entry level jobs. Being female in the 1960’s meant that I did office work—billing at the university library, calling out telegrams at Western Union, and filing papers at a law firm. During one decade, I worked at about a hundred different places as a temporary secretary. I worked for hospitals, banks, manufacturers and others, including the county government. I quit the District Attorney’s Office to manage a gas station; it was more honest work. After Bob’s death, I started taking antidepressants. Following doctor’s orders, I took them every day for twenty-six years. During that time, I attempted%2
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