POST SUMMARY: Two years ago, suicide became the leading cause of death by injury in America, surpassing car accidents for the first time. And the major reason for that change was a cohort shift: Men and women between the ages of 35 and 64 are increasingly committing suicide. The latest addition to these statistics is Robin Williams. At a time when new platforms are emerging to see a doctor via computer or smartphone, we are reminded that physicians need to treat the whole person and that patients should develop a relationship with their doctors based on trust and understanding.
Awhile back a friend of mine went to “walk in clinics” instead of his doctor because he thought he had a lingering chest cold with a cough and wanted Rx’s to treat it. He went to a variety of clinics which prescribed cough syrup and other drugs, but his symptoms soon came back again. He finally went to see his doctor who had noted that he had a “history” of bronchial problems and ordered an x-ray. They found that the patient has stage 2 lung cancer and would need both an operation followed by chemo. If he had gone to his doctor earlier, maybe this wouldn’t have happened.
Our health care system is not optimized to treat people; rather, it is designed to treat conditions. We, as patients, have to take the responsibility to both communicate with our doctors and to understand that in and out medicine may not be advantageous.
I will miss Robin Williams wit and humor, but his death should be a message that medicine still has a long way to go to treat people and acknowledge that a simple Rx is not always the answer.