"So, I see in your chart that you were supposed to follow up with a gastroenterologist a few months ago, have an MRI, and potentially surgery."
"But that didn't happen--"
"Yeah, I saw the doctor, he said I needed surgery, but then he never called back to schedule it."
"Did you call to follow up?"
"I called once, but didn't get a call back. I figured the doctor decided I didn't need the surgery after all."
"Because he didn't call you back?"
"But you didn't pursue it-- you just assumed that he secretly decided you didn't need surgery, and thought the best plan of action would be not to tell you that."
"When you say it like that..."
"I apologize on behalf of that doctor that he didn't call you back. Of course he should have called you back. But that doesn't mean you didn't need surgery."
"But he didn't call me back."
"No one's going to make you have surgery."
"No, it's not great! You're the one in charge of your own health. Just because a doctor doesn't hound you to do something doesn't mean that if there's a problem, it's going to go away. You're the one who ultimately is going to deal with the consequences, so it's in your best interest to take ownership and follow up. I'm not saying the doctor doesn't care if you live or you die, but we have lots of patients, things fall through the cracks-- it's unfortunate, but inevitable. You have to be your own advocate. You have to follow up. Someone tells you that you need surgery, you need to call back and schedule it. Or at least call back until you get to speak to the doctor and hear him tell you he changed his mind, and explain why. It is your health."
"But I didn't want the surgery anyway."
"Not even if you need it?"
"No, I want it if I need it."
"No one's going to force you. That's not what doctors do, or at least not what they do anymore. You need to take ownership."
"He should have called me back."
"Yes, absolutely. But your body doesn't care! If something's wrong with you, it's still a problem even if the doctor doesn't call you back. Your blood test results are really not good. There is really something wrong. And, yes, of course your doctor should call you back, but you have twelve different doctors, and not everyone looks at every test result, and it's frustrating, sure-- but you have to be the one looking out for yourself."
"So what do I do now?"
"I'm going to give you a referral to a different gastroenterologist, and I want you to make an appointment, and go see him, and then we'll go from there."
"Will this one call me back?"
"I don't know. But it doesn't matter. If he doesn't call you back, you call him back. Call him back until his secretary puts him on the phone. Pretend it's a matter of life or death. Because it might be!"
"It's his job to call me back."
"It's his job to do surgery. You'd rather he be good at doing surgery than be good at calling you back, I promise."
"He should still call me back."
"Absolutely. And I shouldn't be two hours behind on my clinic appointments, but I am. I will call you in a week. I will write a note to myself to do that. But if I don't-- call the clinic next week and ask to speak to me. It's okay. You're allowed to do that."