Used to be, you were sick, you called your family doctor and he told you to come on over. Sometimes he’d even come to see you if you were that sick. ‘Dem days are sure over. Today, if you’re thinking about making an appointment with a doctor, it often takes a month or more before you can get one. And, oh yeah, you may want to find a good attorney to go with you, at least on the first visit.
I guess most of us have experienced filling out the forms we’re handed upon arriving for the first time seeing a new doctor. Right on top are one or two documents that deal with your being responsible for buying the doc’s new car this year. Then there’s the privacy statement, the surrogate declaration, the list of meds you’re on, and the always-challenging medical history where you get to strain your brain guessing past dates, doctors’ names, phone numbers and addresses. A new one having to deal with Medicare was slipped into my deck yesterday. I got this last form after the SOLID half-hour I had spent filling out all the others. Okay, so maybe I was brain dead by then. I read it over three times and still did not understand how to fill it out. I got angry with my impatience and forced myself to read it slowly a fourth time. Then I got just plain angry. I decided I’d go up to the window and discuss my inadequacies with the medical receptionist.
What amazes me, and we all do it, is that we are expected to read and digest pages of legalese and unconditional surrender, sign them and then be off on our merry way into the inner chambers of the fully protected, totally un-suable Dr. Billings. He or she could eventually kill you without missing a stroke on the back nine or interrupting a test drive of the newest Jaguar. And you—YOU—signed all those papers as if you were giving the doctor permission to order you a cough drop.
Looking from the other side of the examination table, I can understand why doctors have to do this. They have to protect themselves. Now admit it, some of you will sue for millions if you feel the slightest tingle of pain in your pinky following a quadruple by-pass. Me, I’m more tolerant of medical procedures. I don’t get too excited unless I notice my eyeballs have dropped out of my face.
I guess the odds are with us when it comes to signing all the legal papers we have to sift through for most any kind of service we purchase these days. How many of you scroll though miles of legal text for a computer product just to get to the bottom where you instantly click on the “I agree” button? Sure you do. But with legal documents concerning your medical treatment? Sure you do….and so do I. What are you supposed to do? It would take hours of eyestrain and total concentration to read it all and then understand it to boot? And, what if you actually did and objected to some of the things you were asked to sign? Well, there is no way in hell you’d give up your doctor appointment so easily. Hey remember, it took weeks to get an appointment with this doctor. Be grateful you’re still bleeding so he knows you’re not faking it. Besides, if you opt out to go to some other repair shop you’ll be faced with the same dilemma. So what to do? There’s not much.
It would be nice if there were one set of universal medical documents that the doctor industry could agree on. These could be available everywhere and you would have plenty of time to review them. Then you’d keep a stack signed and standing by for all your doctor visits. Works for me. You? Well, if not, I suggest you take two aspirin, stay hydrated, lose a few pounds and check back in a month and we’ll see how you’re doin’.