Ask any physician if he or she minds being asked a medical question by a stranger or acquaintance while at a party, and I will bet that the answer will bean emphatic YES across the board. Just because we docs take the Hippocratic Oath and are committed to the service of healing does not mean that we want to be on call wherever we go, doling out free medical consultations to anyone who asks. I am waiting for the day when an auto mechanic asks me to diagnose a medical condition so that I can respond with, “Hey, you’re a mechanic. Would you mind looking at my car and telling me what that ticking noise is?” Honestly, I am SICK OF IT. I have people private message me on Facebook because they know that I am a doctor, and they will go in to great detail in their descriptions of whatever ailment plagues them, then implore me to diagnose them for free.
There have been instances in which my friends have introduced me to people and have said, “Oh! Stacey is a doc…you know what? You should ask her about that thing on your shoulder!”, which is immediately followed by a quick history and an expectation for me to provide a quick consultation and diagnosis. I almost want to say, “Do you have any idea how much my education cost? Do you know how much it costs me for the privilege of being a doctor? Yet you want a free consultation? I’m trying to get to my gym bag here!” There are a few professions which get such queries for free advice, such as massage therapists, chiropractors and attorneys. Perhaps we would communicate our exasperation more clearly if we just said, “You want fries with that?” when someone asked us for free professional advice. I think that reply would stop anyone dead in their tracks.
I implore any of you who are considering asking a doctor for medical advice to resist the urge. We often cannot diagnose sight unseen, and we certainly don’t wish to take on the liability of providing medical advise, diagnoses or treatment suggestions in such an environment. Though you may balk at the process of scheduling an appointment to see a physician and driving to the office, please understand that we cannot provide a fast food type service in medicine. When we are off the clock, let us enjoy our lives outside of medicine.