Learn 'How Not to Die'

There was nothing he could do to get Kim to see a doctor, and so he vowed that he would do what he could to take care of her. In the end, and after confirming her fear of the medical system, I believed him. He was sincere and really cared about his wife. Many people make choices that ultimately lead to their demise, and at autopsy, my findings reflect this. As a medical examiner, I'm one of the few people given permission to look behind the curtain of someone's life, and what I observe is often senseless and tragic. I don't judge how people live, but I will say this: Not going to the doctor when you have a major health issue is your decision, but missing needed care might mean I'll be the doctor you'll eventually visit. Kim Atani and Victor Baca suffered not only from deadly but treatable illnesses; they also may have suffered from latrophobia or odontophobia.

These are medical terms that describe a fear of doctors or dentists, respectively, in which people put off getting medical attention, making excuse after excuse, until sometimes it's too late. Why do we fear doctors? I think one of the big reasons is that we're filled with dread that some serious problem might be found and we're afraid of hearing bad news. It's scary to be a patient. It's even scary for me to be a patient! Though we like to think we'll live forever, we're all here temporarily. Seeing a doctor brings us face-to-face with our own mortality. There are other reasons we avoid seeing a doctor. Maybe you don't think your symptoms are important. Maybe you're concerned about wasting a doctor's time. Or maybe you don't want to spend the money because you're uninsured. I can't tell you how many people I've autopsied because they didn't want to incur a medical bill. Or maybe you're a man.

Men in this country are much less likely to see a doctor than women are. Their reluctance may be one reason why the life expectancy of men is eight years shorter than that of women. Men repress pain, ignore symptoms, and deny sickness, in part to demonstrate their manhood. Society conditions men to "tough out" illness. They don't want to feel like wimps or go to the doctor for nothing. If a man does see a doctor, it's often because a woman in his life has made him go.

No one likes to get sick. It means that you can't do the things you enjoy or the things you live for. When you're sick, you don't feel like doing much of anything, except lying in bed. You might get better on your own, but then again, you might not. If you stay sick long enough, sooner or later you'll have to go to the doctor, whether you want to or not.

Wanted: A Great Doctor

If you're afraid of doctors, one of the best ways to get over your fear is to be under the care of one you like and trust. To find that kind of doctor takes a bit of sleuthing. Here's what I do: I look for a doctor who is geographically convenient, and I won't go to any doctor who is not board certified in his or her specialty or subspecialty.

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