Dear Ann Landers: You recently printed a letter from "Grieving," whose sister died after she refused medical help. "Grieving" said she has several friends, all "smart, educated women," who will not see a doctor. You said the reason is they fear bad news. Well, Ann, I am one of those smart, educated women who avoids doctors, and the reason is not a fear of bad news, it is a fear of bad medical treatment.
Too often, doctors look at the wrong chart, prescribe the wrong medication and have been known to amputate the wrong limb. I have seen doctors lose lab results, and the patient is then required to take a battery of tests a second time.
I do not trust doctors to make the right decisions about my health, and I fear they may do more harm than good. If and when I find a doctor in whom I have confidence, I will be happy to be his or her patient.
-- Janet in Binghamton
Dear Janet: I cannot dispute a word you have written, but to stay away from doctors because you fear they may make a mistake is not a wise course of action. Your chances of staying healthy are infinitely better if you get regular checkups.
If you lack confidence in one doctor, get a second opinion and even a third, but do get mammograms and Pap smears, and have your blood pressure taken annually. You owe it to yourself and your family. Here's more from others who feel as you do:
From Bakersfield, Calif.: It's more than the fear of bad news that keeps women away from doctors, Ann. Last year, I spent four days in the hospital. Doctors did every test imaginable and found nothing. It turned out my problem was an allergic reaction that I could have slept off. Instead, I had a $7,000 hospital bill.
Mesquite, Texas: Emergency rooms are the most inhumane and frightening places on the planet. You are stripped naked and strapped down while the staff probes and prods every inch of your body. It is a humiliating and absolutely terrifying experience.
Edmond, Okla.: Two years ago, I had a uterine biopsy done by a well- respected gynecologist. There was no anesthesia, and I felt as if I were being tortured. I swore I would never go back to him. I know at least a dozen women who have also had horribly painful experiences while being examined or tested. Dentists use pain-killing drugs, why don't physicians?
Vancouver, Wash.: Women avoid doctors because they don't like being treated like idiots and hypochondriacs. A friend of mind was told by her doctor, "All you have to do is relax." She was given tranquilizers, and led to believe the problems were all in her head. It turned out she had multiple sclerosis. Doctors do not take women seriously, and until they do, I will stay away from them, thank you.
New York: I went to a doctor complaining of fatigue, insomnia and stomach discomfort. The doctor's diagnosis was depression. He gave me an antidepressant. One month later, my husband complained of the exact same symptoms and went to see the same doctor. He was told he might have a stomach ulcer from taking too much over-the-counter pain medication. I had been taking the same pain medication. I stopped taking it, and the symptoms disappeared almost immediately. And you wonder why so many women refuse to go to doctors? Now do you get it?
Dear New York: Yes, I get it. I also get the idea there are too many incompetent doctors out there. My advice is to shop around if you are dissatisfied with your doctor. Check with your friends and co-workers, and don't settle until you've found a perfect fit.
Problems? Dump on Ann. Write her at The Buffalo News, P.O. Box 100, Buffalo, N.Y. 14240.