Do doctors owe patients their lives?

Disclaimer: this is my personal opinion, read at your own risk. Also, I'm venting.

Some patients barge into the clinic expecting their doctors to not only give them their best, but to give them their lives. They expect you to put everything at their disposal: your private time, your money, even your peace of mind.

Empathy is not sympathy, your doctor is not a CareBear and he/she is a real person.

When your doctor does his/her job they're not doing you a favour. They are professionals providing you with a very personal and sensitive service within the legal boundaries of the practice. I will not break any rules for you. I will give you my best, treat you politely, make sure you're as comfortable as possible. But I will not give you money, my personal phone number, or my private time (unless it's a life threatening emergency).

We believe in this job, or else we wouldn't be doing it. It's a big part of who we are, but it doesn't mean we owe you our selves. It takes too much of us the way it is anyway.

Also, if you try to cut in line or speak rudely, I'm sending you to another clinic. The least I expect from you is to stay on line and reciprocate the politeness you receive. I don't care if rudeness is the norm in your household, you are to behave politely in a clinic.

I owe you the professionalism, best treatment, most comfort I can provide. But not my life. My life is mine.


  1. Well stated. Some of the things people seemed to have expected of me:
    1) write fake notes to cover their insurance, overstaying a visa, not fulfilling their work or school obligations, etc

    2) take their annoying teenager home with me

    3) hospitalize their elderly relatives so they can go on vacation without them but with a clear conscience, and no personal financial outlay

    4) work for free

    5) work 24/7

    And that's just off the top of my head.

    Part of professionalism is setting boundaries! :)

  2. When I used to teach, my students expected pretty much the same from me, especially because (in their minds) they've "paid" for it. I wasn't only their teacher, I was also their on-call therapist.

    Now my employer feels the same way. It sort of never ends.

  3. Chiara and Nessie *hugs* Why do they do that? Would they think it's ok if people did this to them at their jobs?

  4. Hugs to you, Souma!

    My thoughts on reasons:
    1) general sense of entitlement
    2) thinking the caring professions should care about them all the time, at their whim
    3) thinking that the privileged should work for it
    4) assumptions about women professionals as being more caring, easier to manipulate, just "mom" in another form

    I find the last to be sadly pertinent and prevalent.

    On a more generous note, I do think sometimes anxiety over health issues overrides a patient's (or their family's!) better sense and manners.

    Keep setting boundaries! Burning you out won't help anyone!

    BTW as an intern I had to smooth a situation before the (male) psychiatrist slugged the (male) family member who said, "I pay your salary!" [via taxes]. :)


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