Patient Invested Physicians

We were in a good position in a sense that we were friends with a doctor.  He knew her, was close to her, cared for her and was invested in her more than any other doctor Miette would end up seeing. I believe that’s one of the real downfalls to modern medicine: patient investment. We read too many studies and heard of too many stories about children dying from treatment. Most of the time the pediatric physicians aren’t present when the death occurs even though they were in the office. The children just become a statistic at that point. When the child dies, the doctor has to separate themselves from that death. How else could doctors keep doing what they do, after seeing death after death? They would become even more numb to deaths more than they already are. But that’s the real issue; maybe they shouldn’t separate themselves? They are dealing with life and death. I don’t want our daughter’s doctors to have a barrier between Miette and themselves since potentially harmful decisions about her health become easier to make. Just give her this drug to counter that side effect. Wait, wait, wait… if there was a real investment in Miette, like Dr. Cocheba had, would that drug get prescribed?? Maybe an extra 15 minutes of anxiously considering our daughter and their dear friend would show that decision to be unwise after all. But one could say that if doctors were closer to their patients and didn’t protect themselves from death after death by putting up a barrier, then they eventually would quit from the personal turmoil or depression. I say maybe that’s not a bad thing. Maybe there are too many physicians? Maybe less physicians with greater investment in their patients would equate to a healthier society and in turn, less death. The old “quality over quantity” argument. The way it is now, most of the time the doctor administers over a treatment and if that treatment results in a death, the parents are left to clean up the traumatic and chaotic mess. The doctor goes home and has dinner with their family, watches a sitcom and goes to sleep, while their patients family is left with a huge irreplaceable void. If the doctor was invested, they would be there when the death happens, be outrageously concerned as any friend or family member would and be traumatized as much. Then, the next time the same decision must be made with another patient, they might remember the pain they felt, dig a little deeper for a different treatment rather than giving the same treatment. I guess the term that comes to mind is “trigger happy”. Because of this lack of personal patient investment, its way to easy to just press whatever button the book calls for. Maybe we’re ignorant to it, maybe they disguise it really well, but it doesn’t appear a physician has enough pain when their patient suffers catastrophic results from their prescribed treatment.

Back to having a personal friend as a physician, we could bounce things off him and get a very real and honest first, second or third opinion. We knew it would be a quality opinion, regardless of personal beliefs of medicine (allopathic vs. naturopathic) because if the opinion was a bad one and we acted on it, he couldn’t escape the outcome of that opinion. Again, I would assume it’s a very heavy burden to carry as a physician when handing out healthcare advice to friends and family. It would take a very special person to become and to stay a physician.

When a parent’s child is newly diagnosed with cancer, finding a quality pediatric oncology physician, one who is willing to invest in that child is extremely difficult. Don’t get me wrong, Miette had a good oncologist. She was cooperative with the natural treatments from our naturopath and didn’t discourage or put up a fuss about it. She didn’t get bent out of shape when we did research and questioned prescriptions and treatments rather than just “going with the flow”. But she wasn’t invested. The only time we saw her was the 10-15 minute checkup each day during treatment. A doctor just can’t become invested like that. Most children’s hospitals are jam packed and the oncologists just don’t have time to get invested. Again, this gets back to quality vs quantity. If you find a doctor like ours, then you’ve done well. If you find a doctor like Dr. Cocheba, a personal friend, then you’re in a very good position. One thing to always remember as a parent with a child going through this horrible disease (or any other disease requiring heavy use of the medical industry); you, as the parent(s), are that child’s defender. They are essentially helpless in the medical world and are depending on you to make the best decisions. If the oncologist you have isn’t a good fit, your child will either not know it or not know how to express that something is wrong. It’s up to you as the parent to be able to tell what is working for your child’s health based off a number of factors. It takes a lot of time, hard work, research and oversight of everything going on. Physician is a profession. There are those who are good at it but don’t forget there are those who are BAD at it, just like mechanics, financial advisers, police officers, teachers, scientists, engineers, etc. There are those who are not good at their profession. Not everyone who is a physician should be a physician and its up to the parents to come to that realization (and not be afraid to come to that realization) and act accordingly; the young child just can’t.

We assembled a team of physicians that we were, at the least, very comfortable with (Miette’s nutrition physician, Dr. Donovan was at The UHC in Seattle – nutrition isn’t something the allopathic world knows much about). It wasn’t perfect though, primarily due to geographical distance. We weren’t comfortable with the initial team, which is another post for another day.