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Physician, Heal Thyself

The Emmy-winning TV producer and author writes about living with a chronic illness

"There is a line differentiating the physician and patient. It is not acceptable to share one's own weakness," she writes in an unpublished essay. "I maintained my silence [about my own illness] to avoid being perceived as weak or less able by colleagues. I am not. I have come to recognize the stigma of these conditions and of a physician openly having them."

The doctor double standard can be powerful. My father, a doctor himself, believed many individuals became doctors to beat their own mortality. It seems to me they are too well-educated to possibly believe that is a battle they can win.

We tell ourselves that times have changed in America. No longer do we extend a hand to our physicians so they may laboriously climb onto those lofty pedestals where, too often, we still believe they should stand. It is okay that our lawyers and accountants be jerks, but our doctors? No. They must be held to a higher standard.

We have not decided what we want our doctors to be. I am not looking for a friend. I just want good advice. I scoff at the idea of doctor's "orders." If we do not like our physicians, never mind taking offense at whatever biases come our way, we should go shopping for replacements.

We demonstrate more care shopping around for cars and consumer items. Maybe we need to decide what we are looking for and find it. The rest will take care of itself.

Richard M. Cohen is an Emmy-winning TV news producer and author. His column is published on AARP The Magazine Online every two weeks.

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