I was jogging one day while on a business trip in LA and collapsed during the run. Within hours, I was at the hospital at UCLA Medical Center on a gurney headed for a CT scan of my abdominal cavity. I remember telling the ER physicians that I was a doctor and recommending my own course of action. As my advice to the ER doctors went largely ignored, I realized, at that moment, that being a doctor myself really didn’t matter.
I wasn’t a doctor anymore. I was a patient.
That was almost a year ago. At the time, I recalled that The Archives of Internal Medicine had published a much-discussed study that revealed doctors might recommend different treatments for their patients than they would for themselves. They were far more likely to prescribe for patients a potentially life-saving treatment with severe side effects than they were to pick that treatment for themselves. Yes, doctors were much more willing to risk their patients’ lives than their own; they were much more willing to gamble with their patients’ lives than their own.
Understandably, people are worried that these findings mean doctors know something they’re not telling their patients. But my own experience with illness taught me a simpler truth: when it comes to their own health, doctors are as irrational as everyone else.