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 a one or a combination of the following:
- Reliance on the internet convincing people they don’t need doctors
- The stigma associated with big pharma and healthcare as big business
- Fake news and misrepresentations of doctors in the media
- The complexity of solving health issues (can’t guarantee 100% cures)
- Doctors are who we see when we’re sick and vulnerable (we depend on them)
Let’s find out if any of these are justified…
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 a 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 out there laid bare. 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. The same is said of the hospital or healthcare machine too.
Many people hate doctors because of the prices they charge. Arguing 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? It is 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 however that they’re just people like everyone else. With very different personalities.
4. Health is Hard
Fixing things as complicated as your health often involve big changes; lifestyle ones as opposed to taking a magic pill. A lot of the time people don’t want to hear that.
Another reason for the hatred of doctors then is that they stand as reminders of that. They have to be brutally honest with you in a way not many other people might. For the sake of your health and betterment. Sometimes at the expense of your ego.
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. They transfer the bad internal feeling as hatred toward the person who’s exposing it.
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. Medicine’s code of ethics is what stands in the way.
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. Ultimately we resent the power they have over us.
This could also be why some people hate doctors with the accusation they’re incompetent. When 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.
Patients must also know though that very few diseases actually present as we learn and see them in textbooks and exam questions. Sometimes those extra tests you might find unnecessary really are needed to help arrive at a diagnosis.
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 may experience could be mistaken assumption. Clearing the air could help you both develop a better relationship.
Hopefully the reasons above could help show you that a lot of time hatred of doctors is misplaced. They’re just people trying to do their jobs.
I Don’t Trust Doctors Anymore
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.
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
Image Credit – @jonathanborba at Unsplash