TBT: Get a Second Opinion

Ouch! The story in the throwback post below was a painful lesson for me to learn as a young woman. I'm better off now, with a family practice I trust and more experience in effective self-care.

The problems with our national health care situation have... let's say, not resolved since I wrote this, so it's still on us citizens to keep on advocating for federal change and also for ourselves as patients at the same time. Godspeed, fellow humans. Take care.


Get a Second Opinion

Poor and fabulous friends, take care of yourselves! You can't completely trust our corrupt health care and insurance systems to do it.

Health care providers are human beings just like everyone else. Most of them are people who entered the field of health care because they wanted to take care of others. Most of them, I'm sure, are good people. But even good people are... well, people. People who can be influenced by profit margins and unconscious prejudices that could be harmful to us as patients. We don't live in one of those namby-pamby "socialist" heathen countries that believe in caring for all human life at the expense of profits... so it's up to us to watch out for ourselves!

CNN.com recently posted a story releasing some interesting (but not too surprising) findings from the medical field. American doctors' attitudes and treatment of patients are heavily influenced by:

Your income.
Your education level.
Your race.
Your weight.

For example: When given the exact same set of medical records, doctors recommended different treatments based on whether they were told the patient was black or white.

That means... If you are nonwhite, non-rich, not highly educated, or overweight, your doctor may prescribe inadequate or inappropriate treatment based on unconscious prejudices about you. It is highly advisable to get a second, third, or fourth opinion before agreeing to any major treatment or leaving a condition untreated.

Here is a personal story of my own to illustrate.

Since the age of 16, I've had a menstrual disorder that runs in my family. It has caused extreme cramping, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, migraines, and anemia. All of the doctors I saw agreed that getting pregnant and giving birth would probably help... but, well, at age 16 that was not a very good option.

Treatment #1: My first doctor prescribed the Pill to regulate things. This is a common treatment. It worked for the most part. I tended to wake up at 4:00 a.m. and vomit once or twice a month, but that was better than the situation before. Sometimes I had migraines, but not too often.

Treatment #2: In college, I went in for a routine exam and explained my medical history. The doctor there was shocked that I had been on estrogen pills for years, as women who get migraines from them are at risk of stroke. Also, the vomiting was caused by an estrogen sensitivity. She prescribed me a mini-pill instead (which does not include estrogen). The vomiting and migraines ended, but the premenstrual symptoms partially returned.

Treatment #3: After college and a stretch of time without health insurance, I saw another doctor, who prescribed me Codeine and gave me an extraordinarily painful shot that was supposed to stop my nausea. Instead, it made me fall facedown on my lawn and puke. I didn't want to be decimated by opioids and miss a bunch of work, so I switched doctors.

Treatment #4: My next doctor prescribed me Prozac. Baffled, I asked why. I wasn't depressed, I was in physical pain. She said, "I don't know why it works for these symptoms, but sometimes it does. Try it. I'm only giving you a child's dose." I filled the prescription and wondered, "Who in the hell gives Prozac to children?!? Oh well, it's worth a shot!" The Prozac made me feel fantastic. Super sunshiny! Whee! And I had fantastic, colorful dreams every night. I told my doctor and she said, "Hmmm, let me know if you start experiencing any strange symptoms. If you do, stop taking it immediately." She wouldn't elaborate. She also insisted that I wouldn't need to taper off--I could just quit taking it and come in for a different prescription. Well, the second month I started to have vivid nightmares of people breaking into my house at night. I looked up the side effects of Prozac in one of Mr. G's old psychology textbooks from Oberlin. It said Prozac causes nightmares and insomnia and absolutely must be tapered off for three months, as quitting cold turkey could cause some very bad effects. So I tapered myself off the dose over three months and went back to the doctor. She said, "Oh, yeah, I thought that would happen," and wrote me a prescription for another antidepressant.


I interrogated her and some other medical professionals about some things and found out that: a.) she's supposed to prescribe the most expensive, ineffective medications first to draw out my treatment and maximize profit for the practice, and b.) all I needed was to take a low dose of over-the-counter Ibuprofen the week BEFORE my PMS started, and the Ibuprofen would actually block the prostaglandins that cause the cramping and digestive upsets. No prescriptions necessary at all. I tried the Ibuprofen method, and it's worked like a GD miracle. Why did I need to drag this information out of her? Because she doesn't make any extra cash off my well-being and purchase of OTC drugs.

Of course, I switched doctors once again. Now, thankfully, I've found a trustworthy doctor who is open and up-front with me, asks questions, observes carefully, and doesn't seem to be pushing any inappropriate treatments on me. My new doctor is a black woman working in a lower income neighborhood. Her office is not as fancy and wealthy-looking as my old doctor's, but I feel that I am being cared for like a human being, not a cash cow.

There are many kindhearted doctors and nurses who volunteer their time at high quality free clinics for the uninsured. Try to find one close to you if you do not have adequate insurance. A volunteer doctor can't possibly view patients as meal tickets, so chances are good that you could receive very beneficial care from such an organization. Good luck to everyone in finding trustworthy and high quality medical care, whether you are insured or not!

In the meantime, I'll be doing my best to organize for much-needed health care reform. I'm dreaming of a day when doctors and hospitals are compensated for outcomes and quality of care, not number of treatments and brand of drugs prescribed. I dream of a day when all of our babies and children have a chance at life and wellness, no matter who their parents are. I dream of a society with no more medical bankruptcies or deaths caused by corporate greed. Wish us luck.


  1. You were prescribed an antidepressant for no reason? Gosh! But I'm not surprised.

    You might be interested in my article on the subject, my latest post at my blog.

  2. they're supposed to whaaaaaaaa?! Prescribe the most expensive treatment first?!

    That's sick! These people take an oath and they are not holding their end of the deal up.

    Shame on them, shame on them big time. That's disgusting!

  3. "...she's supposed to prescribe the most expensive, ineffective medications first to draw out my treatment and maximize profit for the practice.."

    WHAT?! Dammit to hell, that just pissed me off! If I found my doctor guilty of playing that game with me I'd wait around and catch him getting into his Mercedes at the end of the day and I'd seriously give him the scare of his life. That is completely inexcusable.

    Good for you in pursuing your situation to the point of resolution. Far too many "sheople" are blindly being led around by the nose.


    Now... There was one point in that list you mentioned that I'm going unfortunately going to have to agree with.

    "Your weight."

    If I was a doctor and someone who was clearly obsese by means of overeating and/or leading sedentary lifestyle came to me with a complaint, it would be very hard to look past their weight.

    Knowing, as we all do, that weight is a major cause of a great many problems, it's the height of hypocrisy to walk into a doctor's office and complain of swollen feet, chest pains, high cholesterol, etc, and pretend that we didn't bring it on ourselves. And I'm saying that, frankly, as a fat guy.

    Thank God I am currently healthy, But any time I go in to see my doctor for a cold or what not, I half-expect, half WANT, him to slap me in the face and say, "What the heck's wrong with you? Lose some weight for Pete's sake."

    At a certain point, being overweight becomes a message to those around you that you just quit caring about yourself. If you're willing to send that message to people, to your doctor, why should he take pains to help you when you won't help yourself?

    Well, I've just outed myself here. I'm annoyed with myself. And dammit, I'm going to do something about it.

  4. David: Your blog is awesome! I recommend that everybody click on David's name and check it out.

    Esperanzita: Yeah, when the Hippocratic Oath is weighed against Money, our national god, it sometimes goes by the wayside. There are many medical practices now that are not allowing pharmaceutical companies to come in and give sales pitches and gifts to the doctors. My old practice was not one of them. I saw the seductively dressed young saleswomen sashaying in there regularly with their briefcases full of Satan's advertising and novelty pens. In Mexico, you don't have to worry about them, because pharmaceutical advertising is illegal (like in most of the world). But I advise Americans to look out for signs of pharm-schmoozing in your doctor's office, because you don't want to compete for your doctor's affections with a fake-breasted bimbo promising pharmaceutical financial rewards. Your health is at stake.

    Gleno: Good choice to take your health into your own hands! I only wish that when doctors saw an overweight person, they would be more helpful in supporting a better lifestyle instead of passing up fat people as lost causes and deserving of their health problems. Hell, many of the doctors I've seen are well-fed themselves! They must know that being fat doesn't mean you're lazy, stupid, or undeserving of a quality life.


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