As a doctor, what is the best lie a patient has ever told you?
A very polite and courteous 30 something year-old woman in a wheelchair would come see me once a month for a refill of her pain medications. (lets call her MJ). I inherited MJ from another doctor on the staff so I never really had a detailed history of her pain and overall situation. She was relatively pleasant towards me and would usually spend a few minutes talking about her two sons, aged 6 and 8. She had a diagnosis of chronic back pain and anxiety and would usually receive Percocet and Xanax each month. ( I never asked her medical history which is my fault. I just continued prescribing in the same pattern her other doctor prescribed.)
One Monday morning a member of our staff called me aside, pulled out her iPhone and showed me multiple pictures of MJ at a dance club (without a wheelchair) having a great old time with her girlfriends, dressed up in heels, dancing all over the place, drinking and such!
I felt like a fool and also had to laugh. I enjoyed our monthly visits and did not look forward to confronting her.
When she did return I wasn’t sure how to address this and just decided to ask her if she liked to dance. She looked at me, from her wheelchair, like I was crazy.
“Dance! How can I dance while I’m in this wheelchair?”
I held my gentle stare, smiled, and waited a minute. I asked her in a different way:
“So you haven’t been on the dance floor since when?”
She paused, laughed nervously and started to cry.
I said…”It’s ok. But I can’t continue to prescribe you the medications and we will safely wean you off of them.”
There were a few minutes of her attempting to convince me that she still needed to “get her meds” but I had to wean her off.
This was one of the best “lies” a patient ever told me.
With gratitude and your friend in health,