There are some good doctors in Denmark and I have met some of them. There are also some piss poor doctors in Denmark and I have met some of them too.
My body has been producing scary, painful symptoms for over a week and I have been trying to sort it out. The first specialist I saw said it could be two things. These two things might get better on their own but if they didn’t, I should come in again and we would see what he could do.
When they did not get better on their own, I tried to go back but his surgery was closed so I ended up in Kolding emergency department. I saw another specialist. She saw the same thing the first specialist saw but couldn’t interpret it, so she called for a senior doctor.
The senior doctor did not think the thing she saw was anything to be concerned with. When I brought up that the first specialist had said it WAS something to be worried about, she switched on me.
She got sarcastic and aggressive. I actually cannot get over how unpleasant and unprofessional she was. I have had a lot of shitty doctors, this isn’t in dispute. But none of them have verbally attacked me for asking questions.
There were factual problems with what she was saying. She made it horrifically clear she did not have a strong understanding of what she was seeing on the scans. She also gave indications she either didn’t understand normal functioning or she hoped I didn’t, so she could blind me with science.
She even yelled at me “I SUPPOSE I AM JUST A STUPID DOCTOR AM I?” and I said “I don’t think you are stupid. I think you are WRONG.” Do you see what the problem was? She took my advocating on my own behalf personally. She saw my statements like “I would not call a 1.3cm lump in that part of my body normal” as an attack on her professional competence. In my experience, people are only defensive when they have doubts along the same lines as the person criticising them. When a parent tells me they think my lesson planning or questioning could be better, I don’t react emotionally because I know they are dead wrong. If they zero-in on any of my weak areas, I am much more likely to be prickly.
The thing was, the senior doctor wanted to intimidate me into shutting up. What she wanted after saying “It is nothing, you are faking the pain, go home,” was a submissive nod of the head and me out of her life. Because the majority of the time, these things get better by themselves, so who cares if the stupid patient thought it was real or they had gone temporarily insane? If I hadn’t seen the first doctor, maybe it would have even worked. A shudder runs through me.
I asked her “Why did the first doc say it was xyz?” and she was about as rude about him as she could get away with. I didn’t show her that I knew about how my body works because she was exactly the sort of doctor to blame knowledge for my symptoms. I have had a doctor blame a skin condition similar to eczema on the fact I studied astrophysics. This happened. (In the UK).
As she was leaving she said “Sometimes women have pain and we don’t know why. And we never find out why. And it goes away on its own. I wish I could give you an answer, it would make my life so much easier.” At last the truth. She could have said that at first and I would have respected her. But she only said it after screaming “DO YOU WANT SURGERY?!” at me. She only said it after saying “It’s nothing”. She only said it after saying “Your strong vagina is causing pain in your fallopian tube.” (How strong does she think that bad boy IS?)
But literally, the only way they could diagnose certain conditions (that the first doc had suspected), is surgery. Of course I don’t want surgery. Of course I don’t want an overnight stay in a hospital. But the thing I want least is EMERGENCY surgery and the loss of function in a part of my body.
Now, you know me, I like to pit Denmark against the UK. Like I said, there are shitty doctors in both countries and there are fantastic ones in both. Most doctors I come into contact with are okay. But this was something new. Getting yelled at, being on the receiving end of sarcasm, being treated like a naughty child… This has literally never happened to me in the UK. This is because doctors in the UK are used to awkward patients. I think they are even trained on it, they have mock interviews and the actor might be given the role of “patient with print outs from the internet”. They know how to handle someone who thinks they know more. I am okay with that, it can be frustrating when I genuinely know more about my rare condition than they do but it’s not life threatening and it is not traumatic.
I was traumatised by her treatment of me. I gave as good as I got but when I got home, I just cried and cried. Why couldn’t she have been kind? One of the things the first doctor had suggested was a dead embryo clogging up my tubes. The other was an abnormal cyst, damaging the tube. She took both of those options off the table but was not willing to discuss why. (I suspect because didn’t understand either of those possibilities.) She was not only unable to explain her medical judgement to me but she was also unable to handle being questioned. She felt personally attacked and she responded by being as aggressive as possible.
There are bad doctors in the UK but at least they are used to patients advocating for themselves and can respond professionally. I think it’s a big problem in Denmark that people are so trusting of “authority” because of course mistakes are made and people pay for them dearly. I think also having patients involved more actively pushes doctors to raise their game. If they know an awkward long skirt wearing Guardian reader is going to ask leading questions about fibromyalgia, they are going to be ready with answers. If they get used to patients meekly accepting their pronouncements, their pronouncements are naturally going to be more sloppy.
That said. There is no excuse for how she spoke to me. You simply do not verbally attack a patient. Let alone a patient who has been told she might be having a miscarriage or that a part of her body is being twisted until it breaks. You are gentle even if you need to be firm. You do not use sarcasm. You do not take things personally. You do not yell.
Those are the minimum requirements of a human, let alone a health care professional.