Furr & Henshaw
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Making You Whole Again

When being a 'good' patient is a bad idea

In 2009, the New York Times bestseller list featured a book entitled "Curse of the Good Girl." The premise of this book holds that by insisting that young females conform to an idea of "goodness" characterized by politeness, selflessness and niceness, they tend to become disempowered and fail to reach their full potential. Whether or not this premise is true, a similar argument can be made with regard to patient behavior.

When a patient is "good" in this way, he or she is less likely to challenge the assumptions of treating physicians, insist on a second opinion or voice questions that need to be answered. Being a "good" patient no longer means taking the word of physicians as gospel. In fact, when patients are too quiet and too "good," incidences of failure to diagnose cancer and other conditions rise among them.

It is time for patients to understand that standing up for their best interests in active and vocal ways does not make them bad, difficult or ungrateful patients. Rather, it is by actively participating in their own care that patients can help physicians properly diagnose and treat any conditions that may arise.

Humans have a strong biological sense of when their health and wellbeing is endangered. This means that more often than not, your body will tell you when something is truly wrong. If your physician insists that your pain is temporary or in your head and still your body insists that something is truly wrong, please go seek a second opinion. Doing so will not make you a bad patient. It will make you a self-empowered patient who wants to help ensure your health and wellbeing. In addition, failure to act can lead to devastating consequences.

Source: New York Times, "Living With Cancer: The Good Patient Syndrome," Susan Gubar, Jan. 24, 2013

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