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My Doctor is an Ass
Jul 6, 1998

Hi,

Wanted to tell you that I love what you guys are doing here! I just recently tested positive and I just had my first Dr's appointment last week. God, I gotta tell you it was terrible. I have never felt so bad in my life. Allow me to try to explain. 1st I have had to jump throw hoops in order to get my insurance company to cover a Dr outside of my "network" now this was bad enough, see my "network" in my area does not have an infectious disease doctor per say. I wanted a doctor who deals with HIV on a daily basis. I really don't think this is too much to ask for (considering what I pay these people per year). Then I realized there was a doctor in Detroit who is an HIV specialest. Perfect only 500 pages of paperwork and a nominal fee and my insurance will allow me to see this guy. As with anyone going to the Dr for the first time especailly the first trip in to talk about your HIV I was a nervous wreck. I go in and go through the standard 1,000 pages of "Newbie" paperwork. I talked with his nurse for a while, she was great I might add. Then here comes the Dr from hell. When he came in the door it was like a mental slap in the face(I know that sounds stupid) but I have no other way to describe it. I feel the need to interject here that I am not a shy person and have never been uncomfortable dealing with people in my life. My body went to RED ALERT, as he walked toward me I stood up off the bed, took two steps back to give myself room, I realized I was backing against a wall, I took a defensive stance, almost battle mode for lack of a better term. I have no clue why, I was terrified of this man for some reason. I only knew that if he came closer, either myself or him would have been in trouble, and seeing as how I'm 6'2 225lbs of spring steel and rawhide I tend to think this little guy would have been out for the count in no time. When he talked to me it was as if he was talking to a 12 yearold. I tried to calm myself long enough to ask a few questions, and his answers were more like ha ha you dumb ass your sick and you need me, and I don't have to tell you a damn thing if I choose not to. He tended to act as though he were God and I his subject. I wanted to stress to him that the MD after his name did not stand for "Me Deity" (I didn't though) Like I said seeing as how this is my first trip in I have a billon things I want to ask about but after a couple of answers that you would give a 3 yearold I gave up. My only concern now was simply getting him away from me. Am I have a mental breakdown or what? I have no idea what to think about this whole thing I have never been so affected by anyone in my life. I went to the lab had them take my blood and left. In my car I simply started trembling, again something that has never happened to me. I felt as though this was all my falt and the Dr. just reconfirmed what I already knew. I kept thinking the next thing outta this mans mouth was gonna be you should call Dr Kavorkian he's just down the street, and will help you before I do. Now under normal cercomstances you would just go to another Dr right, sounds simple enough, but I'm affraid if I pitch another shit fit on my insurance company they will drop me. This is not the time that I need this to happen. I just can't get over why I would react to someone this way. I meet a couple thousand people a day and never have any problems and I know I wasn't intimidated by him physicaly so what could it be? I tried to think of anyone in the past that would remind me of him and I drew a blank there as well. So here I am with a Dr that I'm terrified of and an insurance company who can drop me at any time, slightly stressed about the whole thing. What should I do?

Response from Mr. Shernoff

I am not sure why you feel your insurance company can drip you so quickly. If you are not comfortable with him you have to go back to your insurance company and tell them that he was condescending and unable to establish a trusting relationship with you, and that you will research other HIV doctors in your area and then ask them to authorize him or her. In the mean time contact your local AIDS service organization and ask them for referrals to good HIV doctors. You can also ask them if any of them are on your network. You might be in for a pleasant surprise.

Additionally, you may want to think of asking that same AIDS service organization for a referral to a good mental health professional who you could have a few sessions with to discuss the entire initial consultation with this doctor that you had such a strong negative reaction to. Perhaps you can gain some insight into what happened. You can also write him a letter telling him that you felt condescended to and treated in a non-respectful way. If the relationship is going to work the two of you have to be equal partners in your health care. If he is not open to this, then he is certainly not the doctor for you. You sound very trapped and I am sure that there are ways for you to explore options that will leave you feeling better, safer and self-empowered in your relationship with your primary care physician.

Michael Shernoff, MSW



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