Monday, October 6, 2014

Doctor, YOU'RE FIRED!

I’ll never forget the day I was fired as a Dad by my three year old son. He and I enjoyed watching the Jetsons. Almost every week Mr Spacely would say to George Jetson “George Jetson, you’re fired!”

One day it was taking me longer than usual to strap my son into his car seat. Unexpectedly my son started to imitate the tone of Mr Spacely and he then uttered these unforgettable words: "Daaaddy you’re fired!” I've been a parent now for more than three decades. Thankfully, it was the first and last time I was ever fired as a Dad. I still joke with Andy about the day he fired me. He still insists he made a right decision because it took me too long to strap him in.

This week I learned that not knowing when to fire someone could cost you your life.  I just heard from a fifty-year-old man who a decade ago (when he was 40)  asked his Doctor to perform a digital rectal exam and to take a PSA. His Doctor told him both tests were unnecessary until he turned fifty.
This man placed his trust in his Doctor's judgement.

Some Doctors believe that men who find out they have prostate cancer seriously harm themselves by choosing an unnecessarily aggressive treatment option. They believe it's better to keep men in the dark so they won't make a foolish treatment decision which will cause them more harm than the prostate cancer ever could.

I grew up in an era where Doctors were right below God in status and importance. If a Doctor said something, it had to be true. The very idea of questioning a Doctor’s judgement was unthinkable. Unfortunately, some Doctors still believe in this myth, some patients still believe this as well.

The reality is Doctors are fallible, in other words, they make mistakes. If you as a patient ask for a test, which is reasonable to perform, and your Doctor refuses, fire your Doctor. Find another who believes they work for you.

This story does not have a happily ever after ending. This man trusted his Doctor for a decade. He had his first digital rectal exam and PSA when he turned 50. His PSA was just shy of 40.  Subsequent testing would show his cancer had spread beyond his prostate. The opportunity for a cure had past. Now he wonders how many years his life will be cut short as a result of prostate cancer.

Sometimes your life depends upon whether or not you can look your Doctor in the eyes and say “Doctor YOU’RE FIRED. For those men who aren't temperamentally able to tell their Doctor they are fired, don’t say a word. Simply find a Doctor who believes they work for you.