It's Never the Doctor's (Psychiatrist's) Fault?

August 25, 2011 Natasha Tracy

It's not my fault. We say it. We think it. We spread it around. It's supposed to assuage our guilt and make others believe we didn't do anything wrong, when maybe we did.

But occasionally, someone has a backbone. Not a politician, not a famous person, not a person in a position of power, but your average person that you interact with, they are capable of admitting they did something less-than-perfectly.

But never, ever is it a doctor's fault. It doesn't matter what they do, or what they say, it's never their fault. They never make a mistake. They never have a bad day. They never make an error in judgement. They never write the wrong name of a drug down on a script. Never, is it ever, their fault.

Doctors and Litigation

OK, I know, doctors can never admit they did something wrong because if they do, they will get sued. No offense neighbors to the south, but that's kind of your thing. If I were a doctor, I'd be scared and have a lawyer on speed dial too.

Nevertheless, most people don't have a great desire to sue someone. (And in Canada, it's much harder and the awards are not nearly as insane.) So while I appreciate a doctor's concern, I really don't think this gets them off the hook. I just don't. Not in reality and not ethically either.

Lil' Billy

"Billy, did you take a cookie from the cookie jar?"

"No," says Billy with big, innocent eyes, and chocolate all over his face.

We all do this when we're a kid. And then we're all taught not to lie. We're taught to fess up to our wrongs. We're taught the lies and the cover-ups are worse than whatever we did (ask Martha Stewart).

But somehow doctors are not held to this same standard. We don't expect them to act like a mature eight-year-old.

It's Not Me, It's You

Then there is the phenomenon of "blame the patient," where not getting better is our fault. We're obviously doing something wrong because the Doctor's treatment is perfect. We're obviously not taking our meds on schedule. We're obviously out drinking every other night. We're obviously lying. We're obviously doing something to mess up what the doctor knows is the "right thing."

"I'm Sorry, I Made a Mistake"

But here's the thing, would we all feel so compelled to run to the lawyer if doctors were just capable of apologizing?

You know what I say when I talk to people going through hard times?

"I'm sorry you're going through that right now. It sounds very hard."

You know why I say that? Because I am sorry. Because it is really hard. And because it makes people feel better to know that someone is listening to them.

And aren't doctors supposed to be listening to patients and making them feel better? Isn't that their job? It isn't mine, you know. I do it because it's the right thing to do. Because I'm empathetic. Because I'm a human being.

A Challenge to Doctors

So I challenge doctors out there to do something new - take responsibility for your actions. Act like you care about what your patients are going through. Stop taking notes for three seconds and listen with understanding.

And for damn sake admit when you've made it mistake. Because it's not a secret. We already know you did. And you completely lose our respect when you deny it like a child.


APA Reference
Tracy, N. (2011, August 25). It's Never the Doctor's (Psychiatrist's) Fault?, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2024, July 22 from

Author: Natasha Tracy

Natasha Tracy is a renowned speaker, award-winning advocate, and author of Lost Marbles: Insights into My Life with Depression & Bipolar. She's also the host of the podcast Snap Out of It! The Mental Illness in the Workplace Podcast.

Natasha is also unveiling a new book, Bipolar Rules! Hacks to Live Successfully with Bipolar Disorder, mid-2024.

Find Natasha Tracy on her blog, Bipolar BurbleX, InstagramFacebook, and YouTube.

June, 23 2014 at 7:15 am

Man, do I ever identify with this!
I HAVE had ONE doctor who sort of apologized to me. When I was pregnant with our only child, I would ask him at every visit, 'Are you sure everything is ok?' No doubt he thought I was neurotic. I had a dream that we would have a child with handicaps (never told him about that...he would have had me committed, lol).
All testing was ok, no indication anything was 'wrong'. Completely healthy pregnancy.
I ended up carrying her full term, but needing an emergency c-section. She damned near died...Apgars were 2, then 3. Intense fetal distress.
Our baby was born with Down syndrome. When the ob came in to remove the staples from the incision, he said, 'You KNEW, you really did.'
That's as close to an apology as I've ever gotten.

September, 20 2011 at 8:53 am

This is particularly an issue for people with bipolar--in my experience anytime you challenge a p-doc they try to attribute it to a symptom such as paranoia or delusions of grandeur. So my question is how to talk back to a doctor when you don't agree with him if you are as knowledgable as you obviously are without that happening or is it a lost cause?

September, 2 2011 at 5:40 am

I had a pdoc who, when I told him (and told him) that the medication was raising my blood sugar and wasn't doing anything for me anyway, said no this medication doesn't really raise blood sugar (inspite of my telling him I reserched it and found that it does raise blood sugar) and he also told me that the med was doing something, I just didn't realize it. (that was the worst part, so frustrating when a doc tells you they know you better than you know yourself) When I went into the hospital, not because of the meds, I told the pdoc there about it, he took me off it right away and put me on something else, BIG difference: blood sugar back to normal, and my anxiety was much better (that's why I was on the other med) There are docs out there that do listen, but way to many who don't. I've been lucky for the past 3 years, I'm at a hospital's outpatient clinic and see the residents, a new one every year, and they've all been great, they always listen and don't have a problem changing a med if I tell them it's not working or the side effects are too much. I've been doing very, very well now for the past 3 years. Anybody who's frustrated with their pdoc's I say, if at all possible find another doc. There really are some good ones out there.

August, 27 2011 at 8:07 am

Maintaining people on multiple unnecessary medications may not be evil, but it is incompetent. It increases the risk of serious side effects and injury. This is another thing that is definitely the psychiatrist's fault. It is inexcusable in any field of medicine.

Natasha Tracy
August, 26 2011 at 9:39 am

Anything for a fan ;)
(I lived in the US for a bit but now I'm back in Canada.)
- Natasha

Natasha Tracy
August, 26 2011 at 9:38 am

Hi Michele,
That's a pretty common problem. It's not really an evil motive, they're just concerned about making you worse by taking you off a medication. There is some logic to this in that if you're doing really badly, you may not handle the withdrawal well.
That being said, my doctor is with you - too many doctors add too many meds and don't take any away.
(I just got rid of one last week. I can't say it helped anything, but I suppose it's the principle of the thing.)
It's great you're feeling better. Too much medication is nasty.
- Natasha

August, 26 2011 at 9:32 am

Never knew you were Canadian. AWESOME!

August, 26 2011 at 1:49 am

My previous pdoc had me on 9 meds. They weren't working. Awhat he did was just kept adding meds without taking me off of any. It has me very tired and I'm still not better. I changed pdocs about two and half months ago and it has been great. He has taken me off of 3 meds so far and added wellbutrin, which is working so far. Unfortunately he is out of network, I do get some money from my insurance company. But I will make it work. He specialzes in mood disorders and I heard a lot of good stuff about him. But I do wish my previous pdoc would have admitted that he had me on too much medicine. Every time I brought it up he would lower one and that's it.

Leave a reply