All About Web MD


Juan, my assistant, hands me a chart. He’s written, Bobby has an STD. “That’s his third in the past six months,” I said. “Bobby do you solicit men outside the Department of Health?”

“Yeah, I know,” he laughed. “But this guy is different. He thinks he got it from his ex-boyfriend. They just broke up.”

Secretly I thought Bobby should quit while he was ahead and get rid of this guy before he contracts some thing worse than gonorrhea, like leprosy. But I’ve known Bobby for years, and a hot boy with a limited vocabulary is worth more to him than a raging case of genital herpes. “So what’s it this time?” I asked, “discharge, burning upon urination, or gangrene?”

“No, nothing like that. I went to poop and I found worms.”

“What are you, a puppy?”

“Seriously, I looked it up on Web MD.”

Internet sites that allow public access to a cornucopia of symptoms and diagnoses which ultimately point them in the direction of a fatality, has become the bain of my existence. Yet most times patients ignore the obvious, common and less threatening ailments because it’s easier for someone to cling to a dramatic disease then it is for them to even consider that they have something far less threatening.

Why settle on a common cold or indigestion when you can have bone cancer or Tay-Sachs Disease?

“Bobby, listen,” I said. “I don’t know what you saw clinging to your anus but I seriously doubt it was a pin worm.” But I could be wrong. So after a careful and thorough examination, I failed to find any evidence of a pin worm. “Let’s say we do a stool culture and see what grows from that?” I offered. Bobby agreed. Two days later, the stool culture came back completely negative. So I called Bobby with the good news.

“That’s ridiculous,” argued Bobby on the phone. Unbeknownst to me, Bobby consulted with the new illegal alien boyfriend’s doctor who prescribed them both a healthy dose of an antihelmenthinic drug, the likes of which I have never had to prescribe before.  But I guess there are some doctors who prefer if you come in waving a print out diagnosis. It saves them the trouble of having to make one for themself.  But I don’t fly that way, and like Gary Merrill said to Anne Baxter in All About Eve, “I don’t like what I want to come after me. I come after it.” So you see my issue with Web MD has nothing to do with the people behind the website; it’s the patients who want to self diagnose and then have a doctor, in this case played by moi, write them prescriptions. Well that’s not going to happen. It’s the performer that makes the play and not the playwrite.


Two days later Bobby called back. “I finished the medication and there is no evidence of any worms but I read on Web MD that I am suppose to take two more weeks of another medication. My boyfriends doctor won’t prescribe it for me. Will you?”

I gripped the receiver tightly, trying my best not to break it in half. “Bobby I don’t come to your office and dictate how you should work. So I would ask that you respect the years of education and training I have completed and not order me to write prescriptions or treat you based on your limited knowledge, which by the way comes from an internet resource.”

“Maybe I was too harsh,” I said to Chad later that evening.

“No, he should respect you and not tell you what to do,” said Chad. “That is total bullshit.”

The next day I called Bobby who admitted that he was out of line. At this time, he is still free of these mysterious worms even though I suspect he really might have jumped the gun and completely misdiagnosed himself in the first place. He probably wiped his toosh too hard and mistook some toilet paper residue as worms. Whatever. It’s over.

Then this morning another frantic phone call. “Doctor I don’t feel well. I have some cramps.”

“Are you moving your bowels and passing gas?”

“Yes,” he responded. “But I think I need an upper GI series.”

“What?” I shouted. “What makes you think you need that?”

“I read it on Web MD.”

“Juan hand me the axe.”



  1. Eric
    Posted October 18, 2009 at 1:57 am | Permalink

    I totally understand how u feel when u meet this kind of patients during the consultations. I had encountered some of them even gave u a bunch of internet printouts and ask u to comment immediately in the short consultation time. It just happens everywhere. The only way i can do is to forgive them and always Smile!

  2. mich lyon
    Posted October 26, 2009 at 6:27 pm | Permalink

    ummm . . . i think i was right about being an alcoholic doctor smarty pants! i didnt need you or the web to figure that out (the bartender told me).

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