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The Darndest Things Doctors Say

Updated: Jan 16

All of us, you and me, possess a primitive nature and a divine nature. The former is controlled by what I have called and identified as the automatic brain, or AB. It protects us, rightfully or wrongfully, form danger, threat, or vulnerability, by making us fight or flee. Since we all possess an AB, including us doctors, it means that any question of our authority can be interpreted consciously or subconsciously as an attack, thus causing fighting or fleeing.

The white coat serves as a convenient veneer and our actions and advice let us maintain an air of authority and self-confidence, even if that air may sometimes be less than genuine. The AB is actually the ego that many feel doctors posses too much of.

Through my introspection that has led to my books and other works, I have brought up to the level of awareness and consciousness the pull of this AB and therefore and cautious not to let it guide me. However, many of my colleagues have yet to do such work and that has lead to the craziest comments.

Here are 11 "crazy" examples.

  1. Doctor to cancer patient (after successful complete removal of an early stage breast cancer): “I’m not going to tell you what to do, but if you’d like to dance at your daughter’s wedding, I suggest you go for the chemo.”

  2. A patient tested negative for vascular disease that could cause a stroke. She went to another doctor for diagnosis of other symptoms, and that doctor told her husband: “I don’t know what caused her symptoms, but if I had to make a guess, I’d say she had a mini-stroke.”

  3. To a patient concerned about a mark on her finger that appeared while she was receiving chemo: “It’s a small price to pay for being alive.”

  4. To a patient who asked if she would lose her hair from chemotherapy, worried about her kid’s reaction: “Oh yeah, but it should grow back.” (What if it doesn’t?

  5. To a patient who asked if the doctor would use the same therapy if she were his wife: “You don’t want to know. I’d give her a lot heavier dose than I'd give to you. I’d blast her.” (I guess before you ask a doctor what they would do if you were a loved one, first check to make sure they actually like that person!)

  6. Describing the early stage of breast cancer to a patient: “The good news is, what you have is pretty much cookbook. We have protocols in place that make the decision-making process easy. Sort of like a recipe.”

  7. To a mother whose son had a serious intestinal infection caused by the heavy use of antibiotics and was reluctant to give him antibiotics for an unconfirmed strep throat: “You’re irresponsible! He could get rheumatic fever or kidney failure if you don’t treat him. You’re stubborn, and you could hurt your child.”

  8. To a woman who had recent surgery to remove a small cancerous tumor, and who wanted to know if the surgeon had gotten everything: “Yes, we got it all—but you never know what tomorrow will bring.”

  9. To a patient questioning whether he really needed cholesterol-lowering medication (statin drug): “Don’t come back to me if you refuse to take it.”

  10. To me, when I questioned two orthopedists about the value of a particular procedure they were recommending for two of my patients: “Who’s the orthopedist here, Charlie?”

  11. To a patient asking the specialist about something the primary care doctor mentioned: “Why don’t you ask him, he seems to be the expert in everything.”


There are many examples like these, and I encourage you to share your own with me. The lesson of all this is that it’s not enough to watch out for your own AB. Sometimes you have to be able to understand how someone else’s, like your doctor’s, affects yours. To get optimal health, you sometimes require a trusting partner. Preferably, it is an open-minded doctor who is aware that the AB (i.e. ego) is not a reliable communication vehicle.

© Dr. Charles F. Glassman, CoachMD

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