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50+: Live Better, Longer

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Breaking Up With Your Doctor

Is your doctor-patient relationship on the rocks? Find out if it's time to move on.

Wait, Can You Hear Me Now? continued...

After the appointment, Middleman wrote a letter to the office explaining that the doctor had been rude and insensitive so she would no longer need her services. "I don’t consider myself too demanding," she says. "I expect somebody to treat me with respect, honesty, and politeness -- someone who talks to me like I'm a human being."

The most common complaint, when these conflicts arise, is that people feel like they’re not being heard or understood, says George Blackall, PsyD, author of Breaking the Cycle: How to Turn Conflict Into Collaboration When You and Your Patients Disagree and professor of pediatrics and humanities at Penn State University College of Medicine in Hershey, Pa.

Keep in mind that this is a partnership, Blackall says, where both parties bring expertise to the table. The physician brings medical expertise and the patients bring the expertise of knowing their body and preferences for treatment and care.

"The core assumption is that both parties are trying really hard to help the person get better," Blackall says. "There are times in a doctor-patient relationship where there are going to be outright disagreements. It's actually quite common."

So when is it time to fire your doctor? "If you feel in your heart that you’ve given your best effort to build a partnership with your physician and it hasn't happened, then it's time to move on," Blackall says. "If a person decides that it’s time to move on, it should be a conscious choice, not one made out of haste or anger."

When Your Styles Don’t Mesh

When Crystal Brown-Tatum, a public relations firm owner in Shreveport, La., was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2007, she sought out a female oncologist. She says she initially found her doctor “pleasant and caring." But as her treatment progressed, Brown-Tatum found her doctor to be too clinical, less compassionate, and desensitized to her needs.

"I began to dread going to see her," Brown-Tatum tells WebMD by email. So she decided to find another oncologist. The final straw was a scheduling mistake. Brown-Tatum used that as the reason for switching practices, because she didn’t want to hurt the doctor’s feelings.

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