Are you having trouble getting along with your doctor? Do you think he’s not listening to you? Is it hard—or impossible—to get through to him? Is he behaving like an asshole?
Maybe he has Asperger’s syndrome:
“Asperger syndrome (AS), also known as Asperger disorder (AD) or simply Asperger’s, is an autism spectrum disorder (ASD) that is characterized by significant difficulties in social interaction and nonverbal communication, alongside restricted and repetitive patterns of behavior and interests. It differs from other autism spectrum disorders by its relative preservation of linguistic and cognitive development . . .” (Wikipedia)
Dr. David Felten, a noted neuroscientist, stated that a physician is simply somebody who studied hard in school. Dr. Paul Cohen, my ex-psychologist, theorized that people with Asperger’s aren’t out shooting hoops with their buddies or drinking beer in a sports bar: they are at home studying, consequently, they become doctors. The incidence of Asperger syndrome among doctors exceeds that in the random population. The field of medicine rewards doctors with Asperger’s.
“As a pervasive developmental disorder, Asperger syndrome is distinguished by a pattern of symptoms rather than a single symptom. It is characterized by qualitative impairment in social interaction, by stereotyped and restricted patterns of behavior, activities and interests, and by no clinically significant delay in cognitive development or general delay in language. . .”
In other words, people with Asperger’s come across as brilliant, but with a touch of autism. And what rewards brilliance more than the field of medicine? And what field really doesn’t care if you get along with the customer? Oh, that would also be medicine. In the past ten years in Syracuse, NY, I have been exposed to five doctors who have Asperger’s.
“A lack of demonstrated empathy has a significant impact on aspects of communal living for persons with Asperger syndrome. Individuals with AS experience difficulties in basic elements of social interaction, which may include . . . impaired nonverbal behaviors in areas such as eye contact, facial expression, posture, and gesture.”
Two of the doctors specialize in sleep disorders: they like their patients best when they are unconscious and, therefore, least social. The others specialize in endocrinology, neurology and immunology. Four have been diagnosed by psychologists in informal situations, i.e., the psychologists have been patients or neighbors of the afflicted; the fifth I diagnosed all by myself. Farmers show me four fruits and call them apples; by the fifth time I see an apple, I know what it is.
“This failure to react appropriately to social interaction may appear as disregard for other people’s feelings, and may come across as insensitive.”
• My friend’s wife works for an Asperger’s doctor. She comes home in tears at least once a week. On one occasion, the doctor called her into the treatment room and, in front of the patient, read her the riot act because she had put the paperclip in the wrong corner of the papers. Who knew there was a “right” corner? The Asperger doctor . . .
• I am being interviewed by one of the Asperger doctor’s. He does not look at me but keeps his head down and his gaze focused on the papers on his desk. He will only tolerate “yes” or “no” answers to his questions. If I give an extended answer, he freezes and repeats the question until I limit myself to a yes or no.
• The Asperger’s doctor is sitting in a high-backed padded leather upholstered armchair pulled into the knee-hole of his desk. I am seated on a metal and plastic stackable chair without arms with my knees up against the outside of the doctor’s desk. I am enduring a three-hour testing session. The doctor refuses to give me a break or let me move to another chair. He has no awareness that I am in discomfort.
• The patient keeps skipping her appointments with the sleep doctor who has Asperger’s. Every time he sees her, he berates her about her excessive weight. Fact: she has multiple sclerosis and cannot exercise.
• The doctor cannot see me. He has the resident interview me, then he interviews the resident. When he asks the resident questions that the resident did not ask me, the resident makes up answers, some of which are wrong. I am not allowed to interject a comment.
Doctors with Asperger’s syndrome do not have any awareness that their behaviors are hurtful to their patients. They are insensitive to the clues that other people are sending. There is no indication that any of these five doctors have been formally diagnosed or are in treatment. What physician is going to call any other physician psychiatrically impaired?
What should happen is that anytime you come across a doctor who mistreats you in this manner, you should file a complaint with the NYS Dept. of Health’s Office of Professional Medical Conduct at http://www.health.ny.gov/professionals/doctors/conduct/complaint_form_instructions.htm.
The complaint is that the physician is practicing while impaired by a mental disability. All that needs to be done is to get the doctor formally diagnosed and into treatment. It is not a career-ending problem; it is about the doctor’s need to address his own problem so that he can get out of his own way and properly treat the patient.