What Happens When Doctors Minimize: Part 2

If you haven’t read part 1 of this article, I highly encourage you to do so before continuing on. In an effort to make my point a little easier to understand and read through, I divided the post into two parts.

In the first part of this article, I shared how I could see both sides in terms of just how much a doctor or surgeon shares with a patient about a new diagnosis or surgical procedure. On one hand, hearing you now have a lifelong illness and/or need to undergo surgery is upsetting enough so of course it is helpful when the person caring for you is very optimistic. But on the other hand, I don’t believe doctors/surgeons should “under sell” or minimize what it is a patient and their loved ones might have to go through.


A couple months ago, a close family member, who I will call David, finally went in for hip replacement surgery after putting it off for so long. David and his wife were told that he would *probably* have to stay in the hospital overnight but he would be out walking the next day and then everything would continue to improve with each passing day. Rehabilitation was mentioned but dismissed as something that wasn’t needed. So basically, this person went into a surgery he had been putting off for years and years, thinking that it would be a relatively easy fix and then he would move on with an improved quality of life.

Without going into too much detail, NOTHING happened like David was promised and is now facing the very real possibility of not being able to walk ever again.

I am honestly furious for David and his wife. I am appalled at the story they were “sold” about what the recovery process would be like. Even I knew it wouldn’t be as easy as that and I am obviously not a medical doctor nor have any experience (thankfully) with surgeries related to the hip.

Why doctors minimize…

This led me to think about how and why many doctors and surgeons minimize what it is a person may need to go through. After all, I do understand not wanting to scare anyone like I mentioned previously. However, in my opinion, not being told the reality of the situation can lead to so much emotional angst for not only the patient but his/her loved ones as well.

If no one is prepared for a tough recovery, the fact that it ends up being difficult can make a person think something is wrong with them. Complications that are completely unexpected can also shift blame onto a patient. When I was experiencing some of the things I mentioned, I was being told it was all in my head, all my fault, and I just wasn’t committed to getting better. It was said that I obviously didn’t WANT to feel well otherwise I would be eating, drinking, and going out.

Relationships can change drastically if someone is expecting their loved one to make a full recovery and then it doesn’t happen. For example, my GI and surgeon making my total colectomy out to be as simple as removing wisdom teeth was the worst thing that could have ever happened to me. I don’t say that lightly. My relationship with my parents changed dramatically in a negative way because they were always wondering why I wasn’t fine. It baffled them, and still does to a degree, that I wasn’t and am not able to just be the way I was prior to my IBD diagnosis.

What do you think? Would you rather be told the entire truth or not really since none of these surgeries are optional? Has a doctor minimized your diagnosis? What about surgery? If you are someone who has needed to undergo surgery, do you feel your doctor gave you a good idea what to expect? How about outside of the IBD world… have you had a loved one go through anything similar to what I talked about? Have any of your relationships been impacted by a doctor not telling you the full truth about your diagnosis or surgery?

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