How to Complain to Your Doctor – Part I

Several months ago, I heard from Nancy about a terribly embarrassing experience her husband had suffered during a prostate biopsy. From the beginning of the procedure through the end, he had been treated inconsiderately and rudely by the nurse. The urologist was condescending and short. And ultimately, once the biopsy was over, and wearing no clothing and with no covering, her husband was told by the nurse to get up and get dressed…. whereupon he got off the table and fainted. When he came to, he was crumpled on the floor, covered in blood, surrounded by a half dozen people, naked, and horribly, horribly embarrassed.

Nancy was appalled at the behavior of the nurse who she felt treated her husband like a second-class citizen. She also felt as if the urologist had no interest in hearing about the event. Her husband was afraid to say anything because he didn’t want lesser treatment from the urologist, whom he will have to see from now on, on a regular basis. But Nancy was afraid her husband would decide not to keep his appointments at all, based on the excessive rudeness of the nurse. He had already postponed his next appointment a few times.

Nancy’s question to me: she wanted to complain, but how could she do it so the doctor would talk to the nurse, and how could she make sure the nurse and doctor wouldn’t take it out on her husband at later visits?

There are actually several aspects to this question. Like healthcare itself, there is prevention, treatment of symptoms, and finding a cure.

Prevention would have had to have taken place long before Nancy’s husband was biopsied. Prior to ever seeing that urologist, he should have asked among his friends, others who have suffered through prostate cancer or had previously been biopsied, to find a urologist they respected and spoke highly of. That very likely would have found him a much better doctor than this one is turning out to be.

Treatment of symptoms is addressing the event itself.

Finding a cure is the walking — the taking his business elsewhere — leaving that doctor in the dust and finding one her husband can talk to.

Setting prevention aside in Nancy and her husband’s case (too late!) my choice would have been the cure. If this doctor had been their auto mechanic, or any other service provider, then they never ever would have put up with the behavior of either the doctor OR the nurse, correct? Nor should they in this case. Especially in the case of a specialty like urology…. while you won’t find them on every street corner, there are enough good urologists out there — so why not find one you can communicate with?

But Nancy wants to treat the situation. She wants to write a letter to the doctor, and she has questions about how she should approach that, what she can say that would most effectively explain her and her husband’s dissatisfaction with their experience with that doctor and his staff.

So here’s your cliffhanger…. tune in tomorrow! I’ll tell you what I’ve suggested and what’s going to happen from here.

(Link here for part II)

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3 thoughts on “How to Complain to Your Doctor – Part I”

  1. Trisha-
    I have to say that I truly enjoyed reading your blog today and I am appalled at the way some patients are treated with in the Health Care System. I feel that the system that is suppsoed to be here to help patinets get better at times does nothing more then alienate, confuse, and fragments care for patients and family members.

    I happen to work in cancer and see this all the time from the time of screening, to diagnosis, through treatment. This is part of the reason I why I created I have seen it first hand that there is no one really advocating for the patients when it comes to cancer. Every health system says that they have all the resources, but once the patients is told they have cancer, is there anyone that really is there looking out for the best interest of the patient? Some surgeons do not want a medical oncologist or radiation oncologist talking to the patient before surgery, yet with most of the literature, there is plenty of proof that having another form of treatment may be in the best interest if the patient. Still we continue to try and push the thought that doctor knows best, when we should be educating our patients on their disease and diagnosis, giving them all of the information, and truly allowing them to make an informed decision.

    I have always found informed consent to be an oxymoron myself.

    This is why I have begun my site, to inform and help patients that have a cancer diagnosis, to be educated and informed on all aspects of their care. To help them navigate the dysfunctional health care system, and to hopefully empower them to make the best decision for themselves and their family.

    I think you site is amazing, the work you do wonderful, and I hope that maybe I can help you in your efforts for helping patients in their time of need. If you have any other questions or concerns, you can reach me directly at:

    I would love to talk to you more and see if we could work out a virtual partnership.


  2. “The urologist was condescending and short.” So it wasn’t only the nurse but the doctor who was disrespectful and unprofessional. There is just too much here for me to take in but it seems like the doctor’s practice isn’t run very well if his employees are taking his cues.

    I’ll be waiting to see your reply.

  3. I too have a complaint to make to my doctor re the tx from his anesthesiologist. I have not addressed it because I don’t have access to her and I don’t want to take his time. I have thought of writing him a note but have not done so.

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Trisha Torrey
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