When I was a kid and I watched my parents making hundreds of decisions every day, I just assumed that before I became an adult, someone would sit me down and explain how to determine the correct choice in any given situation. Thanks to high school classes in Biblical ethics and recent instruction in the catechism, I feel pretty confident about most moral decisions. (That is, I generally know what is best, though that doesn’t necessarily translate into the will power needed to DO what is best.) If, for example, you happen to be hiding Jews in your attic and Hitler knocks on your door asking you to hand over any Jews on the premise and you don’t know what to say, just give me a call: I can handle it for you.
Recently, I’ve grown more and more nervous about practical decisions having to do with service industries like health care, auto maintenance, and insurance agencies. I can’t shake the feeling that they’re all out to take advantage of me in one way or another. What’s more, I don’t actually trust most of them to know what they’re doing!
Case in point: The other day I developed a suspicious-looking rash on one hand (TMI? At least I spared you the details of natural birth!) and, not wanting to expose Sam to anything serious, I went to an Urgent Care Center for a diagnosis and treatment. What a misnomer! This particular facility could be appropriately christened the Eventual Half-Hearted Care Center. But I digress.
When I did finally secure the attention of a nurse practitioner, she took one look at my hand, made a grossed out face like THIS one, and said “How bizarre! Let me grab one of my colleagues.”
She returned with a full-fledged MD, who made THIS face, and asked “So, um, do you have any idea what might have caused this?” (I DID have an idea, thanks to some extensive internet research, but I wasn’t about to give him any tips.) So Dr. Wonderful, stumped, went to fetch a dermatologist.
The dermatologist arrived, shook my right hand, glanced at my left hand, and immediately washed HIS hands, looking a little like THIS. The three medical professionals put their heads together and had a conversation that went roughly as follows:
NP: I’ve never seen anything like it!
MD: Are you sure you didn’t burn yourself recently?
DERM: It could be _______, but that’s never on the hands.
NP: That’s what I thought, too! I’ve never seen it on a hand before.
MD: And it’s not on your OTHER hand?
DERM: It’s probably ______, then, don’t you think?
NP: Probably. But, on the hands? Yeah, I bet that’s it.
DERM: Maybe! Give her some ______ and see if that works!
Me: I nurse my baby: will that drug get into my milk or affect the child?
NP/MD/DERM: Er….um….well?……Probably not!
By this point, the underwhelming genius of the diagnosis made by these combined minds was small consolation for earning the Medical Freak of the Day award. So I left the Urgent Care Center after four hours with a potentially dangerous prescription and no more confidence in their diagnosis than the one I made from my own online research.
So was it a bad choice to seek professional care? Should I TAKE this drug, even though they’re attempting to treat a possible condition instead of a certain one? These are the types of decisions I’m weary of struggling with. I want a doctor who can use his extensive, expensive education and available resources to make a deliberate judgement and prescribe effective treatment. In short, I want to be able to trust him to take care of me. Sadly, I didn’t trust those doctors much more than I trust Google. In fact, I might trust Google a little bit more. Of course, not all doctors are like this. Our pediatrician, for example, is attentive, knowledgeable, and thorough. Sadly, it seems that she’s a rarity in her once-prestigious field.
I’ve paid doctors to play eeny-meeny-miny-mo with my health. I’ve paid mechanics to scratch their heads and fix something that was never broken. I’ve paid the U.S.P.S. “Delivery Confirmation” fees, because, apparently simply paying postage doesn’t necessarily mean they’ll deliver my package. What’s next?
Am I asking for too much? Am I wrong to rely on so-called experts? Should I spend my time and resources instead learning how to care for my car or to perform minor surgeries at home? What is the correct point of reference in these cases? Now that Sam’s well-being is my responsibility, I’m much more cautious than I used to be. Like I said before: it’s stressful.
How do YOU go about making these kinds of decisions?