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An Editor’s Invitation: Not Knowing

This month’s More Voices theme is Not Knowing.

Not knowing is an uncomfortable state for health professional and patient alike. And it’s striking how often, despite my profession’s reverence for knowledge and certainty, I’m unsure–or simply don’t have the answers.

“If the CT scan is negative, then why am I having this pain?”

“What’s causing this fatigue?”

“Will my mother get better?”

Many times, I can offer possibilities–sometimes even probabilities–but alarmingly often I can’t say with certainty what’s causing a symptom, whether a treatment will work or how long it will be until the symptom goes away–or returns.

For patients, this is particularly dismaying when they’re in pain or when they’re afflicted with something potentially life-threatening.

Maybe it’s not surprising that physicians sometimes cope by pretending–feigning certainty and offering false reassurance. “That doctor told me he’d get me all better–and now look at me!”

What’s your experience been with Not Knowing?

Send us your story about looking for answers, about being pressed for answers you don’t have, or feeling about unsure of the answers you’ve been given.

Paul Gross
New Rochelle, NY


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