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How to Fire Your Doctor

Look your doctor straight in the eye. It’s okay to smile. Or not–it’s your choice.
Don’t mince words. When your doctor says, “I’d like you to try this prescription…” (or physical therapy or whatever) “…and come back in three months,” that’s your cue. By all means take the prescription, or the referral sheet, and then say, “I won’t be coming back. I’m going to look for a new doctor…”
He or she may ask, “Why?”
You don’t have to answer.
Maybe you need a doctor who takes more time to listen. Maybe you don’t like the way this doctor handed you the prescription. Maybe you need someone who explains better. Maybe you don’t agree with the diagnosis the doctor gave you, or you wanted to talk about other options. It doesn’t matter.
You can simply say, “I think it’s time for a change,” or something similarly neutral.
Your now-former doctor may reach out and attempt to take the prescription or referral sheet back from you.
That’s your cue. Keep a firm hold on the paperwork and say, “Thank you.” You don’t have to actually take the drug or follow up on the referral, but it is yours–earned by the coin of your participation in this office visit. You may keep it.
Then stand up. Your doctor will automatically stand up. Start walking toward the door, even if you are in a skimpy exam gown. In fact, if you are still in an exam gown, start taking it off. That will cause the doctor to exit rapidly, thus ending a potentially awkward encounter.
Carol Scott-Conner
Iowa City, Iowa
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1 thought on “How to Fire Your Doctor”

  1. David Coulter MD

    As a doctor, I find it is sometimes a good thing to be fired by an unhappy patient. It is after all a relationship that has to work well to be productive. If I am not able to help the patient, then they should indeed seek care elsewhere. I do think the tone should be respectful, much like dissolving any other professional relationship. The physician’s attitude should be, “I don’t think this relationship is working. How can I help you find another provider?”

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