Curing White Coat Syndrome: If Something Doesn’t Sound Right, Speak Up!

Here in the United States, we tend to put doctors on a pedestal. So much so, many of us experience a rise in blood pressure in the office. There’s even a name for that: “White Coat Syndrome.”

After all, doctors are very educated, and we depend upon them to help us stay healthy, to heal, or to manage our chronic health conditions. Trust is one of the most vital components of the doctor/patient relationship. When that trust is broken, the result is devastating.

Happily, the greater majority of men and women who practice medicine are worthy of that trust—but not all. And because we hold doctors in such high esteem, it can be hard to question them over aspects of our treatment. Yet, sometimes, that’s the very thing we need to do.

As an example, I changed primary care physicians because my previous GP told me I had diabetes, despite the fact that my HbA1c number was five. He began writing a prescription for a drug that helps the body use glucose more efficiently. I very pleasantly said, “Wait a minute. That number is in the normal range. Why are you telling me I have diabetes?” He looked uncomfortable and simply walked out of the room. He didn’t come back. After 20 minutes, I went to the reception desk and said, “Have a nice day.” I promptly changed doctors and absolutely love my new doc.

Not everybody has the courage to do what I did, and that’s a shame. For some people, it turns out to be a life-altering and, in some cases, fatal mistake.

Oncologist Farid Fata is currently cooling his heels in prison after being convicted of fraud. He treated more than 500 people for cancers like myelodysplastic syndromes that they did not have. And he over-treated others who really did have cancer with only the most expensive drug regimens, despite the damage those drugs did. Some of his patients died as a result.

To me, the old saying, “If it doesn’t sound right, it probably isn’t true” applies. So, if a doctor tells you something that doesn’t sound quite right, ask questions. And for heaven’s sake, GET A SECOND OPINION.

Erica Zahn

Erica Zahn

Erica Zahn is passionate about raising awareness of rare diseases and disorders and helping people connect with the resources that may ease their journey. Erica has been a caregiver, and is a patient, herself, so she completely relates to the rare disease community--on a deeply personal level.

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