Wednesday, December 31, 2003

Now cough!

In the Washington Post, Marjorie Williams reveals what she doesn't like about Howard Dean - The Doctor Factor:
At long last, the revelation I've been waiting for: the reason why -- beyond the prospect of epic, McGovernesque defeat -- I feel so uneasy about Howard Dean.

The man is a doctor. This is the least-examined chapter of his career. But suddenly it all makes sense: Where else but in medicine do you find men and women who never admit a mistake? Who talk more than they listen, and feel entitled to withhold crucial information? Whose lack of tact in matters of life and death might disqualify them for any other field?

As it happens, I've spent almost two decades observing politicians, whom on balance I quite like, and more recent years observing doctors, who . . . . Well, let's just say that mine is a grudge tenderly nurtured over two and a half years of illness, encompassing roughly 32 doctors in six hospitals, plus scores of the medical students, fellows, interns and residents in whom we can see the doctor in larval form.

A doctor who has told you one thing at Appointment A might propose an entirely different course of action at Meeting B. Fair enough -- except for the pretense that nothing has changed. It is the very rare doctor who will say, "I've changed my mind," or, "Sorry, I was wrong when I said X at our last meeting." Usually, what he said last time has simply become . . . inoperative.

Now let's turn the clock back to September, and watch Dean answer George Stephanopoulos on "This Week" about his 180-degree turn, over the years, on the North American Free Trade Agreement:

GS: "On NAFTA, you used to be a very strong supporter of NAFTA."

HD: "George, you're doing it again. I supported NAFTA and wrote a letter to President Clinton in 1992 supporting NAFTA. That's different than 'you used to be a very strong supporter of NAFTA.' "

GS: "You were a strong supporter of NAFTA."

HD: "I supported NAFTA. Where do you get this 'I'm a strong supporter of NAFTA'? I didn't do anything about it. I didn't vote on it. I didn't march down the street demanding NAFTA. I simply wrote a letter supporting NAFTA."

Dean was not in the least abashed that he had described himself on the same show, eight years earlier, as "a very strong supporter of NAFTA."
While I've had some physicians that don't fit Marjorie's profile, I recognize the type.
But I have enough brusque, irritable doctors in my life without sending one to the White House. My most memorable brushes have been with an eminent surgeon whose method is to stride into the examining room two hours late, pat your hand, pronounce your certain death if he can't perform an operation on you, and then snap at your husband to stop taking notes, he can't possibly follow the complexity of the doctor's thinking. Dr. X swats away questions like flies. He spends five precious minutes swearing at the wall-mounted phone, which decades of surgical experience have not equipped him to operate, and then finally pronounces that he can't perform the surgery. "Unless you want me to. But there's a 50-50 chance I would kill you."

Why is it, I ask my husband on the way home, that I'm the one who's sick, but they're the ones who are allowed to have the big, operatic personalities?

I have the same concern about Dean.
So do we all, Margie. More by following the link.