She meant that when the doctors prescribed a regimen for me, I followed their instructions to the most minute detail.
"Why wouldn't I?" I asked. "They are professionals. I went to them with a problem and they told me the best way to handle it. Why would I disregard that advice?"
I went on to tell her that sometimes, by analogy, lawyers have a similar job to doctors. They go to school and train so that they can help others. (NOTE: Yes, I know that is a very sterilized and idyllic way of viewing the job of the lawyer, but go with it for the sake of the blog post.) I told her that despite my legal advice, some clients often think they know better. If they heard some news or advice from me that they didn't want to hear, they immediately cited something they had seen on the news. My years of law school coupled with practicing exclusively criminal law for over 15 years was nothing compared to something they saw on the news, heard from a cellmate, read in the law "liberry" or, my personal favorite, watched on Law & Order.
Seriously, you have no idea how many times lawyers get confronted by clients who saw something different on Law & Order. The bottom line is that it is a very frustrating experience when you give solid legal advice to a client and that client either argues with you or simply ignores your advice. I don't enjoy it when my clients do it to me and I don't do it to professionals I ask to help me -- especially not my doctors.
When I first got sick last year, my doctor, Sam Siegler, suggested that I stay away from doing my own Internet research. He was sending me to a great oncologist and knew the oncologist would give me the real information that I needed to know. I think Sam's warning was more directed towards my wife -- who firmly believes that no matter the problem, there is information on the World Wide Web that can solve it.
Earlier this week, I had to go to a dermatologist to take care of a small basal cell carcinoma spot near my left temple. His advice was that he needed to perform a quick surgical procedure to cut the spot out. It would leave a nasty scar and there was a small chance that it could cut the nerve that raises my left eyebrow. His clear advice was to do the surgery, and, of course, I agreed.
Later on, I started thinking about what it would have been like if the conversation between me and my doctor had been more like conversations with me and some of my (more meth-addicted-type) clients. It would go something like this:
DOCTOR: Well, Mr. Newman, it looks like you have a small bit of basal cell carcinoma.
ME: Carci-what? What does that mean?
DOCTOR: It's a type of low-grade skin cancer that . . .
ME: Cancer?! I'm not trying to have cancer!
DOCTOR: Um, okay, well the fact of the matter is that you do have it and we have to do something about it.
ME: I don't see any cancer.
DOCTOR: It's that little spot on your left cheek.
ME: Man, that's a zit. I've been having zits all my life. It's not cancer.
DOCTOR: Sir, I've been a dermatologist for fifteen years and I can assure you that it is a basal cell carci --
ME: Why are you trying to put this on me?
DOCTOR: Nobody is trying to "put" anything on you.
ME: I've been watching ER for twenty years and Grey's Anatomy for ten years. This ain't cancer.
DOCTOR: Yes, it is and we need to do a small surgery.
ME: Surgery?! What the hell are you talking about surgery? You don't know anything about cancer. You do that chemodiation stuff for cancer.
DOCTOR: I think you mean either chemotherapy or radiation, Mr. Newman.
ME: Whatever. My cousin's girlfriend's brother got cancer and he got that chemodiation and I'm not going to be doing that.
DOCTOR: No one is asking you to do that, sir. It is just a small surgical procedure that will leave a small scar.
ME: A scar?! I don't need anymore scars. I've already been married three times, man! Don't tell me about scars.
DOCTOR: Well, the bottom line is that you have a basal cell carcinoma and it has to be dealt with one way or the other. This is my best medical advice to you, sir.
ME: This is bullsh*t, man. I'm going to go get a Free World Doctor.
DOCTOR: A what?
ME: You ain't working for me, man.