The Worst Patients in the World

In The Atlantic


Americans are hypochondriacs, yet we skip our checkups. We demand drugs we don’t need, and fail to take the ones we do. No wonder the U.S. leads the world in health spending.

From my article in the July 2019 issue of The Atlantic

I was standing two feet away when my 74-year-old father slugged an emergency-room doctor who was trying to get a blood-pressure cuff around his arm. I wasn’t totally surprised: An accomplished scientist who was sharp as a tack right to the end, my father had nothing but disdain for the entire U.S. health-care system, which he believed piled on tests and treatments intended to benefit its bottom line rather than his health. He typically limited himself to berating or rolling his eyes at the unlucky clinicians tasked with ministering to him, but more than once I could tell he was itching to escalate….Read more


4 thoughts on “The Worst Patients in the World

  1. Barbara says:

    As a health care provider I totally agree with this article. Burnout (or, as I like to call it, chronic moral injury) is a significant problem in health care and the patient expectations are half of the issue. Suicide rates in health care providers is rising and good people are leaving the profession. I think the significance of fear of malpractice/legal activity is understated in the article and the fear of a bad “health grade” is rising. Demanding and bullying patients do result in more testing and medications. Expectations based on the media/television fantasy that all problems can be solved in 60 minutes with infinite testing and medications feeds into this problem. Americans do not take responsibility for their health care or the ramifications of their decisions. With the coming of more socialized medicine, Americans may hear the word “no” more often. I went into medicine to help people but it is almost impossible.

    • storyadmin says:

      Thanks for weighing in, Barbara, that’s a sobering view. I think the problems with the healthcare system and the problems with patients go hand in hand, and both need to be addressed if we’re going to progress. I doubt there’ll be any easy or fast answers.

  2. Joanne Stange says:

    This article is viewing the extreme and is therefore almost worthless. It lacks any and all compassion and is simply nothing more than the writers personal anger at his father. The author’s behavior is outrageous and lacks any consideration because of this. Maybe he should write another article titled the worst doctors in the world. Or expand it to the worst lawyers in the world. There is endless possibilities applying the same manifesto. We could also use an article on poor patient care for the elderly since he brought it up. The list goes on. A poorly written article distorted and biased. Because of this it serves no constructive value.

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