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Vicky Shorr Headshot

You and "Your Doctor"

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You see it in every drug ad, and in a lot of the articles in the New York Times Science Section: "Talk to your doctor." "This is between you and your doctor." "If you experience bleeding, memory loss, black-outs, tell your doctor," and so on.

And my own reaction is: "What doctor?" Who in the hell are these ads and articles talking to? The little boy in the Norman Rockwell painting? Who else has a doctor these days? One that they can "talk to," I mean?

Not that people don't see doctors -- they do. It's just that the doctors they see aren't there to talk to them. Mostly, they don't even know their names. They're on a tear through their rounds, and they are there to check you off. Not to talk. Definitely not to talk.

This isn't news, of course, though it was for my grandmother. A doctor she saw when she was visiting Florida told her to get dressed. "Doctor, I'm not undressed," she said to him. "You haven't even looked at me."

We all laughed at her story. It was a joke in those days. Plus, she was the mother of a doctor, the grandmother of a doctor. At home, she had a doctor. We all knew his name, knew his wife's name, liked him. He came to her funeral. We went to his.

But that was then, and now even her son and grandson the doctors don't have doctors. My uncle was thinking of paying for "concierge service," but ended up wondering exactly what he would be getting. Because a doctor is not a lawyer. The truth is that you can't really buy a doctor. To be someone's doctor, you have to care.

Most Americans have moved on and left that dream behind. They march dutifully through their anonymous testings and screenings, and swill down the pills that you see all the ads for. The ones that still play the "your doctor" game.

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