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Why More Doctors Should Embrace the Words “I Don’t Know” By Dr. Sandra Gelbard Jan 9, 2018

Discussion in 'Other health news and research' started by Sly Saint, Jan 11, 2018.

  1. Sly Saint

    Sly Saint Senior Member (Voting Rights)

    The best thing for patients and their care is to admit you don’t know everything.

    As a doctor, it is unnerving to confront an ailment that you don’t immediately know how to conquer. All those years of training, all those hours of study — and yet at some point, every doctor is confronted by one terrifying prospect: you will never know everything. When that happens, you have two options. Tell the patient the truth, however uncomfortable that might make you feel, or try to come up with an answer that “possibly” captures the diagnosis."

    "From eleven years of operating my own practice, I can tell you that there are times when every physician has the right to be dumbfounded. Despite all the advances in the field, there are still many shadowy corners of medicine that are a mystery. And that’s OK. In fact, I’ve discovered that one of the most important things a doctor can say is “I don’t know.”"

    Yessica, Indigophoton, Inara and 23 others like this.
  2. Cheshire

    Cheshire Moderator Staff Member

  3. Trish

    Trish Moderator Staff Member

    I like this article. It simply addresses her fellow doctors and tells them not to dismiss patients whose tests come back normal and tell them it's all in their heads, but rather to turn detective, do what they were trained to do, and keep investigating. And admit to patients that doctors don't know everything.

    What she doesn't deal with is what she does when even the further investigations don't yield an answer... I guess she implies that what she does is, be honest, tell them you don't know the answer, and still acknowledge the reality of the symptoms.

    Not heard of the Lenny letters site before. Does it have a readership?
    Yessica, Inara, Dolphin and 10 others like this.
  4. Arnie Pye

    Arnie Pye Senior Member (Voting Rights)

    This is something that has happened to me over and over and over again throughout my life. Doctors tell me nothing is wrong, and yet when I show I am upset and disappointed by it they assume I'm some weird creature who wants to be ill. How can they be so STUPID! If they tell me all my results are fine, then it means that the problem I have won't be identified, won't be treated, and I won't even get any pain associated with my condition treated, and I will be left to suffer, possibly for years or decades. (I had endometriosis and adenomyosis, so I know what I'm talking about.)

    Why can't doctors understand this simple fact?
    Yessica, Indigophoton, Inara and 9 others like this.
  5. Webdog

    Webdog Senior Member (Voting Rights)

    Holodeck #2
    I've had many doctors tell me they knew what was wrong with me (psychological and/or behavioral issues).

    I've also had a few doctors tell me "I don't know".

    But none of them got the diagnosis correct for 37 years.

    Doctors saying "I don't know" might be a step in the right direction. And at least such doctors aren't likely to prescribe inappropriate treatment causing latrogenic harm.

    Perhaps I'm jaded, but in my experience, "I don't know" is just another way of saying, "Sorry, we tried, but you're on your own now. Good luck.". I struggle to see how that truly benefits the patient.
    Yessica, LucyLouWho and Trish like this.

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