A columnist I often read in the newspaper once wrote about politicians who feel compelled to begin statements with the phrase “Quite frankly, . . . .” He explained how he was immediately suspicious of the ones who used this phrase liberally. He mused that it was possibly a subconscious defense mechanism; a way to convince themselves, as well as others, they were being honest and forthright. I have come to have a similar suspicion of doctors who begin a statement with the phrase “This is a classic case of. . . .”
I have seen three doctors in the last couple of years about irritation that has persisted in my eyes. Doctor A noted, with a casual tone that almost exuded boredom, that it was a classic case of diagnosis #1. Not knowing any better myself, I faithfully followed through with the recommended road to cure. When the road to cure from diagnosis #1 turned out to be a one way street to continued suffering, I was sent on my way to doctor B. Doctor B noted the diagnosis of doctor A; and with a tone bordering on disgust, declared that I had a classic case of diagnosis #2. I saw this doctor for some time, and had somewhat better results than with doctor A. However, the problem still persisted. To my great disappointment, doctor B moved to Minnesota (hopefully not because of me). My third primary care doctor in as many years unwittingly referred me back to doctor A. I shouldn’t have gone back, but I did. My condition continued, despite my, dare I say: gullible, devotion to treatment for a “classic case” of diagnosis #1. Frustration mounted, and I switched to a fourth primary care physician who referred me to doctor C. The rationale was that we could validate the diagnosis of either doctor A or doctor B. You guessed it, doctor C said that I had a classic case of diagnosis #3. I was sitting in the hot seat when doctor C looked me in the eye and explained what he thought it was. He must have read the unease on my face like it was a neon billboard because his tone was almost defensive. He suggested a treatment for diagnosis #3 which he claimed would work almost instantly, and sat across from me with an expectant look on his face. I replied, “well, if you think it will make me feel any better, let’s give it a shot.” We did, and it didn’t.
I am left with the feeling that having “classic” symptoms of a particular condition does not mean what I thought. Surely three professionals, trained in the same specialty, would recognize my “classic” symptoms as the same thing. O.k., maybe two of three at least. But one set of “classic” symptoms and three diagnoses? I suspect the phrase must be some kind of special code taught in medical school, loosely translated as: “I haven’t got a friggin clue what this guy has wrong with him, but admitting my ignorance won’t make him feel any better.” Or perhaps its just a defense mechanism of their own, as if saying it will make it true.
On the bright side, my co-pay is only $10.
Maybe I’m expecting a full coarse meal at Burn’s for the price of a pound of ground chuck, but at this point I’d be happy with just a salad.