Doctors Should Stop Lying to Patients

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I’m in the infusion center right now getting my monthly dose of cancer cure, and I asked the nurse for a copy of the results of my recent bloodwork. Last month I did this accidentally, and it turned out that the printed copy contained my M-protein levels. I normally have to wait for those until my doctor manually releases them.

I figured I had discovered a loophole in the system, but no. Today’s nurse told me the M-protein test was “in process” and therefore unavailable. I told her this just meant that Dr. A hadn’t released them yet. No, no, she insisted, and turned the screen around so I could see the words “In Process.” I repeated that this just meant the results were waiting for Dr. A to let me see them and then grumbled something about not understanding why I had to wait to see my own test results.

A minute later my nurse returned and said she had asked, but it was policy not to release this stuff, and last month’s nurse was new and didn’t realize that.

OK, fine. I don’t like it, but it’s fine. What really gets me, though, is their persistent unwillingness to admit that it’s “policy” at fault here, not something else. My first oncologist blamed it on IT and said I couldn’t see my M-protein results at all until an office visit. My current oncologist admits that I can see them, and blames the policy about manually releasing them on mysterious forces beyond his ken. The nurses try to pretend that it takes several days for the lab to do its job, and that’s why I can’t see them.

I’m not sure what bugs me more: not being allowed to see the results immediately or being routinely lied to. I even understand the reason for the policy (I think), and I admit that it probably makes some sense. But don’t doctors know that when they lie to patients about one thing, it makes patients wonder if they’re lying about other stuff too? Why not just tell me why they have the policy they do; admit that they themselves are the authors of that policy; and then promise to release the results promptly? I suppose that would prompt arguments from patients, and they don’t want to waste time on arguments.

I get that. I really do. But still. I wonder how many other things they don’t tell me because they figure it’s not worth the hassle?

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You just sent an incredible message: that quality journalism doesn't have to answer to advertisers, billionaires, or hedge funds; that newsrooms can eke out an existence thanks primarily to the generosity of its readers. That's so powerful. Especially during what's been called a "media extinction event" when those looking to make a profit from the news pull back, the Mother Jones community steps in.

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