A lot of people hate doctors.
Planning to soon become part of the medical profession myself I’m curious to find out why.
The main reasons for the hate seem to be one (or a combination of) the following:
- The internet convincing people they don’t need doctors
- The stigma associated with big pharma
- Fake news and misrepresentations of doctors in the media
- The complexity of solving health issues (can’t guarantee 100% cures)
- Doctors being the people we see when we’re sick and vulnerable
Like any good med student should, let’s explore each of these reasons.
Is this hatred of doctors justified?
Reasons To Hate Doctors
1. The Internet
The rise of the internet and the tons of websites talking about all things health could have a lot to do with many people’s hatred of doctors.
Now people can go online, read up about their ailments and self-diagnose themselves on the spot. All without leaving the echo chambers that help confirm what they secretly hoped to be true in the first place.
Thanks to the web, people no longer feel they need doctors now the information is all out there.
When a hundred websites tell you their opinion is just as qualified, all without billing you (like a clinic would), it’s not hard to see why.
A Med Students Response: until people learn to critique what they read, look for evidential backing and question their sources the same way they would doctors, this is a problem that’s not going away anytime soon. Although there’s been some pushback (read about Google’s medic update), there’s still plenty of hokey sites out there doling out bogus health advice and widening the public’s distrust of traditional healthcare.
The internet helps people hate doctors.
2. Big Pharma and Corporate Healthcare
Some of the hate that gets thrown at doctors comes as a result of association rather than direct cause. Working as a bridge between big pharma and the public, there’s accusations of doctors being shills trying to make quick money at the expense of unwitting patients.
Many people hate doctors because of the prices they charge. They argue that they’re cogs in the wheel of a machine driven by greed and exploitation.
A Med Students Response: to hold doctor’s responsible for the industries that run parallel to their role as primary caregivers seems a little unfair. Although we can’t be sure if unethical practices are commonplace in big pharma and privatised health (Ben Goldacre’s book Bad Pharma is a recommended read here), to see doctor’s at the center of these problems is an oversimplification of complex problems.
3. Fake News and Distorted Media Representations
From anti-vaxxers to 5G conspiracy theorists, fake news has a lot to answer for in terms of twisting the public’s perception of doctors.
Done with the sole intention to gain attention (and thus money), it’s a diversion tactic that works. People love anything sensational that can help confirm their bias.
The same can be said for anything in the media that shows doctors as real people. Why the outrage when people see doctors driving around, enjoying their free time, being with their families etc? Is it because it breaks the narrative that the life of a doctor is one of sacrifice and selflessness?
A Med Students Response: TV dramas, the media and the news may all have a big part to play in the idea that doctors see themselves as superior. The truth is that they’re people like everyone else. With diverse personalities.
4. Health is Hard
Fixing things as complicated as your health often involves big changes – lifestyle ones over a magic pill.
A lot of the time people don’t want to hear that.
Another reason for this hatred could be that doctors stand as reminders of that. Their role is to be brutally honest with you in a way not many other people might.
Maybe this is the reason that people like to insult doctors; as a type of revenge for forcing them to confront uncomfortable truths about themselves.
A Med Students Response: it’s not nice to be told you need to lose weight or give up smoking or whatever other action that could be a part of you. But, most of the time, a doctor is doing this for your own betterment. Don’t hate them for doing their job.
5. Outcomes are Uncertain
Sometimes people are just angry because they can’t get clear indications they’re going to be fine.
Doctors, unlike salesmen trying to get you to buy a product, can’t promise you a 100% positive outcome. That’s just not how medicine works.
In a world where many false commercial promises are made, it’s easy to fault a doctor for not playing along. When you spend a lot of money on expensive operations and procedures, you expect tangible results.
A Med Students Response: you can’t compare healthcare to a commercial enterprise (although sometimes they look similar). Doctors have to operate by a moral code that many others don’t. Do they really deserve to be hated for that?
Perhaps the biggest reason doctors are hated is because we see them in times of vulnerability.
Knowing we can’t fix ourselves, we become dependent upon them. Then we ultimately begin to resent the power they have over us.
This could also be why some people accuse capable doctors of being incompetent. In reality the level of paperwork, administration and bureaucracy etc, just makes it difficult for them to actually do their jobs to a satisfactory standard.
A Med Students Response: we don’t necessarily hate doctors but rather the reason they exist. We don’t want to get sick. Nor do we want to be reminded of it. But patients must also understand that few diseases present to us exactly as we learn or see them in textbooks. Sometimes those extra tests we call for could just help save your life.
I Hate My Doctor: What Should I Do?
Besides asking for a new one (which you’re well within your rights to do so), there’s also the option of talking to your doctor to express your feelings and opinions.
Some of the hate you might be experiencing could be mistaken assumption. Clearing the air could help you both develop a better relationship.
I Don’t Trust Doctors Anymore, What Do I Do Next?
There could be lots of reasons why you don’t trust doctors anymore and every one of them could be valid. Maybe a doctor was rude to you or a family member. Or maybe they were negligent, made an error and caused you a lot of pain.
As someone standing on the other side of the fence though, I’d like you to know that doctors are a very diverse group of people – and not one of us is the same.
Just because you don’t feel you can trust a doctor you’ve had in the past, shouldn’t mean you can’t trust the thousands out there who do care and will do their best to help you.
Final Thoughts: Is Hatred Of Doctors Real?
It’s a waste of time to hate. You may feel negative about doctors but nothing is to be gained from hanging on to ill feeling.
Hopefully this article has helped show the other side of the debate and can maybe open your mind a little more.
Image Credit – @jonathanborba at Unsplash
Born and raised in the UK, Will went into medicine late (31) after a career in journalism. He’s into football (soccer), learned Spanish after 5 years in Spain, and has had his work published all over the web. Read more.