I know what it feels like when your doctor says they can’t help you. I’ve had this happen many times. I’ve experienced everything from being fired by a doctor to having a doctor deny me care altogether. These are rough things. Any time your doctor says they can’t help you, it’s tough to take. But there are things you can do, even at that point. Here’s what to do when your doctor says they can’t help you.
Why Would a Doctor Not Be Able to Help You?
In my case, I’m talking about psychiatrists, but all doctors are basically the same. A doctor might be unable to help you for a few reasons, but the primary one is that they think they have run out of viable treatment options. But please note this part: they think they have run out of treatment options. That does not mean that you have run out of treatment options. Your doctor is one person. They don’t know everything. Their ideas are not the only ideas. When a doctor says they can’t help you, there is more you can do.
When a Doctor Can’t Help You — Step One
If you’re in a doctor’s office and they say they can’t help you, the critical thing for you to do at that point is to ask why. You need to understand why a doctor feels they can’t help you. Have they exhausted their knowledge? Do you not have access to the treatment you need? Are they retiring? You need to know what is going on. Understanding the doctor’s perspective can take some of the fear out of a doctor saying they can’t help you.
For more on how it feels when a doctor says they can’t help you, watch this:
When a Doctor Can’t Help You — Step Two
No matter why a doctor says they can’t help you, the next step is to work around the problem. Primarily, this means getting a second opinion. This is because no matter what the doctor tells you, there are more specialists with different views and different arrows in their quivers. Doctors are not gods. They do not know all and see all. They are simply a specialist with an opinion. There are many others out there.
So, ask your doctor for a referral to someone new, or even better, a new specialist clinic (there are mood/affective disorder clinics). Get a consultation from a significant player in a hospital. (You can also go to your GP and request a referral from them instead.)
(I realize that some of those options are not available to people. I’m sorry about that. The healthcare system in the US sucks. That said, do your best to make one of them work.)
If your doctor refuses to give you a referral, use this trick. Make them write in your medical records that they are refusing you a referral. They usually don’t want that in the written record and will acquiesce.
If you absolutely can’t see anyone else, then do your own research. Research new and cutting-edge treatments, old and forgotten treatments, and bring them to your doctor. Force them to tell you why they can’t be tried. Again, make them write down that they are denying you a specific treatment if that’s what happens.
Finally, if the doctor says they can’t help you because you can’t access a specific treatment, find a way around the problem. Find a program that will allow access. Or find something or someone new. It’s horrible when your doctor thinks you need a specific treatment and you can’t access it, no doubt about it, but that doesn’t mean it’s the end of the road.
When Doctor Can’t Help You, Don’t Give Up
Remember, a doctor not being able to help you is a problem, not the end; it’s a roadblock, not a cul-de-sac. So, work the problem. Don’t give up. Bring in reinforcements if you can. Include any loved one who can lend a hand. They can not only help with getting you new options, but they can help keep you hopeful as well. Having a backstop is always welcome.
I know it’s wholly unfair to ask a person who is so sick that a doctor says they can’t help them to do the work. I know people in this situation don’t have the spoons to deal with this problem. But you have to. You have to fight back. You can’t let one limited human make the final determination about your wellbeing. You are better than that. You are more important than that. Your life and happiness are more important than that. While it’s hard, giving up on yourself and your health is worse.
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