Doctors are consistently named among the most-trusted occupations, coming in second place in the 2015 Australian ranking, and many of us are lucky to have found one who we feel comfortable and safe with.
However, not everyone is so fortunate. Last week, a 19-year-old shared her account of being belittled during her first consultation with a gynaecologist.
“When I told him I was 14 when I was diagnosed, he gave me this look and said, “What does a 14-year-old have to be depressed about?” the Redditor, momdadimrae, recalled in a post that’s since received more than 800 comments.
“He kept berating me, asking me if it was school or home that made me sad and seek attention, and then told me that depression is over-diagnosed in this country.”
The doctor also told the woman that depression “wasn’t a thing” in his own country, and made snide comments about her weight. He also yelled a nurse out of the room.
In a similar vein, Mamamia published an article last year by a writer who was told her vagina smelled “awful” during an appointment. The comments posted by our readers proved she wasn’t alone in being treated in an insulting or dismissive way by a doctor.
Though this kind of behaviour is awful and degrading, it’s thankfully not a common occurrence.
“Doctors as a whole, I think, strive to provide the best care for their patients. But doctors aren’t infallible and it does give rise to situations where, for one reason or another, the quality of care they provide can be less than optimum,” explains Dr Piraveen Pirakalathanan, Healthand‘s Principal Medical Officer.
As a patient, you have the right to dignity and privacy; to be given adequate information to make decisions about your treatment; to be treated professionally and competently; and to seek a second or third opinion.
If you are ever treated in an unprofessional or inappropriate way by a medical professional, you have every right to take action. “It’s important for patients to speak up, because it can affect their own health, and in some cases it can help other patients avoid having to go through a similar situation,” Dr Pirakalathanan says.
Watch: 5 things you didn’t know about PCOS. (Post continues after video.)
What you can do
There are a number of avenues available for addressing an incident. While there’s no one-size-fits-all process, Dr Pirakalathanan says the first step you take depends on the severity of the incident or behaviour, and should ultimately be dictated by you looking after your own safety.
However, here’s a general guide to the options available:
1. Discuss the incident the with the health professional involved
Dr Pirakalathanan says speaking directly to the doctor you’re unhappy with is the best route to take if it’s a minor issue, and if your main objective is to receive an apology.