How To Insult A Doctor

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How To Insult A Doctor
Young businesswoman has a serious expression on her face while discussing a document with a female colleague.

The tone of your recent editorial, ‘Miss, Mister, Doctor: how we are titled is of little consequence’, and article, ‘Do surgeons wish to become doctors?’ (April 2006 JRSM 1 , 2 ), on who should be called ‘Doctor’ is unnecessarily offensive. I have a DMD (Doctor of Dental Medicine, Dentariae Medicinae Doctor), followed by a PhD (in psychology). In Germany I would be referred to as ‘Doctor Doctor’, and when I served as a professor in the Netherlands, I was called ‘Professor Doctor Doctor’. It did not matter whether I was a physician, surgeon, podiatrist, veterinarian, dentist, and/or psychologist.

Miss, Mister, Doctor: An insult

The tone of your recent editorial, ‘Miss, Mister, Doctor: how we are titled is of little consequence’, and article, ‘Do surgeons wish to become doctors?’ (April 2006 JRSM 1 , 2 ), on who should be called ‘Doctor’ is unnecessarily offensive. I have a DMD (Doctor of Dental Medicine, Dentariae Medicinae Doctor), followed by a PhD (in psychology). In Germany I would be referred to as ‘Doctor Doctor’, and when I served as a professor in the Netherlands, I was called ‘Professor Doctor Doctor’. It did not matter whether I was a physician, surgeon, podiatrist, veterinarian, dentist, and/or psychologist.

In several places in the two publications the authors take umbrage at the very idea that dentists should be called doctors. For example, in the article by Ibery et al., ‘Do surgeons wish to become doctors?’, the authors state, ‘dental surgeons in general dental practice, who also hold a bachelors degree, are now styling themselves Dr. We are uncertain as to the origin of this creeping doctorization’.

To compound the insult, you separate doctors from dentists in your comparisons, rather than referring to them as physicians and dentists, who are both called doctor in the USA and elsewhere. Even that distinction would become blurred if the change being proposed by the Commonwealth of Massachusetts legislature to redesignate dentists as oral physicians comes to pass.

Notes

Competing interests None declared.

References

1. Treasure T, Tan C. Miss, Mister, Doctor: how we are titled is of little consequence. J R Soc Med 2006; 99 : 164-5 [PMC free article] [PubMed] [Google Scholar]

2. Ibery N, Patel PM, Robb PJ. Do surgeons wish to become doctors? J R Soc Med 2006; 99 : 197-9 [PMC free article] [PubMed] [Google Scholar]

Articles from Journal of the Royal Society of Medicine are provided here courtesy of Royal Society of Medicine Press

How to Insult A Doctor

One of the best ways to insult a doctor is to question their competence. Other good ones might be suggesting they didn’t exhaust every avenue of testing or are purposefully delaying a diagnosis just to jack up medical fees. Anything that damages the ego can be pretty effective too.

Perhaps the better question here is why would you want to insult a doctor in the first place? Maybe you feel you’ve been rudely treated (I’ve got some better suggestions for that), or maybe you just don’t like medics.

Hopefully you’re just researching this on the side of caution; not wanting to insult your doctor.

At least that’s what I hope!

How to Insult A Doctor

Having been around doctors for a while now, both as a patient and as a med student, I’ve got a better sense of what makes them tick.

From a patients perspective, here are the more common things that can insult a doctor:

  • Googling your own diagnosis, asking questions based on it and not trusting your doctors opinion
  • Questioning their judgement (the more experienced, the greater the insult)
  • Asking to see doctors of a specific age, gender, race or sexuality instead
  • Accusing doctors of shilling for big pharma companies or being profiteering charlatans

Notice that some of these aren’t specific to being a doctor. Sometimes an insult is an insult no matter what your job or position.

From a med students perspective, here’s what insults them also:

  • Having a terrible foundation of clinical knowledge
  • Making no attempt to ask or answer relevant questions in class
  • Resisting volunteering for demonstrations, procedures of whatever else that might facilitate others learning
  • Coming consistently late to class, being unprepared or not dressed appropriately

Depending on the doctor supervising there can be a lot more here too!

The trick is to be aware of things that can cause annoyance and trying not to do them obviously. Oh, and no “I learned this from a blog I found on Google so it must be true.” Meta.

What Should You Not Say to a Doctor?

Making symptoms up, exaggerating them or leading physicians on a wild goose chase by not being truthful are probably the biggest things you shoudn’t say. But that’s assuming you’re somewhat respectful in your delivery first.

Bigger things then are issues like being abusive or using threatening, condescending or offensive language. Or making constant interruptions to with thoughtless questions.

These types of things are only likely to alienate a doctor and make treating you difficult.

What Are Annoying Things Patients Can Do?

Although doctors aren’t supposed to get annoyed and are meant to act professionally, they’re also human. Annoying patients are exactly that. Often times doctors will dread seeing them even if they’re not insulted.

Such things include:

  • Asking inappropriate or personal questions of their doctor
  • Saving important diagnostic information about themselves until they’re ready to walk out the door
  • Begging for prescriptions they don’t need or pestering for a certain treatment option
  • Demanding certain tests, treatments or procedures that aren’t an original part of the treatment plan
  • Feeling entitled to preferential treatment or care

These annoyances will differ by culture and the attitudes of the doctors themselves. Some physicians? Have nothing but empathy for all their patients – even the annoying and insulting.

Of course they understand that patient behaviour (especially if it’s like that) can just be a manifestation of things like anxiety and fear also. So annoyance isn’t always a given.

How Should Doctors Deal With Offensive or Insulting Patients?

Doctors have to be professional at all times. Treatment shouldn’t differ from one patient to another. Showing visible signs of frustration and annoyance can make patient interactions worse.

Sometimes, depending on the severity of reaction, doctors might get reprimanded too. Usually this is down to independent codes of conduct or ethics laid down by hospital organisers themselves however.

How Do You Get A Doctor To Take You Seriously?

A doctor will take you seriously if you take them seriously. They’ll also take you seriously even if you don’t. Such is the extent and rigor of their training.

Getting them on your good side though, at least from what I’ve observed, isn’t difficult. Respect and understanding goes a long way. As does having faith and confidence in your physician and their capabilities also.

One thing to understand about medics and us medics in training is that we’ve been in this game a long time. We have to pass exams testing our knowledge frequently. And we won’t be given a licence without demonstrating a certain level of conceptual and procedural expertise.

Keep all that in mind. Don’t do something as dismissive as trusting the word on some YouTube video of a random stranger over that of your medically licenced doctor. Not if you do want them to take you seriously when that aforementioned advice fails.

Maddie Otto

By Maddie Otto

Maddie is a second-year medical student at the University of Notre Dame in Sydney and one of Level Medicine’s workshop project managers. Prior to studying medicine, she worked and studied as a musician in Melbourne. She has a background in community arts, which combined her love for both the arts and disability support. She is an advocate for intersectional gender equity, and is passionate about accessibility and inclusive practice within the healthcare system.