Butterfly grew up with food intolerances and was diagnosed with ADHD, Asperger's
Syndrome, and learning difficulties. Now she struggles with OCDs.
This is the story of how we have faced these challenges.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Doctor Dearest

Butterfly had an appointment with her doctor on June 8th. He hasn't been a lot of help to us, but there was a test we'd never received the results of, so we went. The following letter is a result of that visit. I'm putting it here in dedication to all parents of autism and their kids, who've had a rough time accessing adequate health care, and indeed for anyone who's been a victim of bad medicine from a bad doctor.


Dear Doctor,

It took some coaxing to get Butterfly to keep her appointment with you on June 8th. As you know, she has trust issues with physicians. You are one cause of that. She most assuredly had an attitude. She’s has Asperger’s. People with this syndrome have difficulty with social skills. Butterfly has not yet learned to hide her feelings well, or pretend to like someone she doesn’t. Your angry, judgmental behaviour did nothing to change her mind about you. Moreover, telling someone with OCD that they don’t need to wash their hands so often does not magically make the OCD go away, as you seemed to expect. OCD stands for Obsessive/Compulsive Disorder. This means that even though someone knows on a practical level that they don’t need to do something, they nevertheless feel compelled to do it. Wouldn't it be magical if just telling a patient they don’t need to made it go away? But it doesn’t work that way. You apparently aren't really familiar with these disorders, which you referred to at one point as “diseases.” I’m not sure how this is supposed to help patients who have to live with them 24/7.

You asked why Butterfly distrusts doctors and I told you quite honestly that it started when you poked her belly when she was little, without first telling her what you were going to do. It’s not complex ~ you frightened her. It took a long time and a lot of reassurances from me to calm her fear of you. Hearing this clearly hurt your feelings, though it wasn’t intended to. It’s just what happened, and you asked. I’m certain a more reasonable and secure person could have handled that without the emotional backlash. Your apparent need to “get even” with anyone who even unwittingly wounds your remarkably fragile ego is disturbing ~ especially in a grown man, much less a family doctor. Your bullying of my daughter, and your verbal assault on me were not only unwarranted, but very unprofessional as well. There is simply no excuse for such reprehensible treatment of any patient.

Your angry and condescending assessments of who we are have nothing to do with reality. Yelling absurd statements and accusations at a teenager with autism and anxiety issues is not acceptable. No, Butterfly should not have used the F word, but it isn’t as if she was swearing at you. She was merely telling you that you didn’t know what {WTF} you were talking about, and she was absolutely right. To answer the question you screamed at me twice in your office, yes, I am tolerant of her slips of the lip. She’s a teenager. It happens, usually in very stressful situations, which in this instance was of your making. I expect maturity will help her control this. I have since reminded her that she must watch her language in such circumstances, but I understand that she was very upset and felt very threatened by your verbal attack on her. It is your behaviour that I will not tolerate. (Calling Butterfly a “guttersnipe” was a little over the top. I mean, name-calling? Really?)

You are a medical doctor and we have seen you over the years in that capacity only. Your opinions about my choices as a parent were and are not welcome. Your values and hangups are not mine, nor do you have any right to suggest that we must live in accordance with your beliefs and values. Your nagging at regular intervals about my choice of names for my daughter was inappropriate. Parents are not required to consult their physician before naming their children. And your statement that all autistic children should be treated the same ~ to be drugged and put into public school ~ isn’t even realistic. One thing I have learned from the autism community is that no two children are exactly alike and each child must be assessed individually. That you evidently haven’t learned this does not surprise me.

You told me just before we left that you should have called in the CAS when Butterfly was five because of my decision to homeschool her to “nip it in the bud.” Really? Do these intimidation tactics work on your other patients? Is this how you earn respect? As I tried to explain to you (although there is no reasoning with someone raving and spewing vitriol), parents are going to turn for counseling to those who are qualified, informed, current, and respectful of parental rights. For us, this was *Canuck Family Services, where we attended counseling, learned more about behaviour modification techniques and had Butterfly tested, and where our homeschool plan was deemed a good fit for her given her learning challenges. They even provided us with some great resources. Your obvious contempt for *Canuck and for our parental choices once again demonstrates your lack of grasp of the challenges associated with raising a child with autism. We did not seek your advice and approval on this matter then, nor do we need it now. In fact, for you to even continue belabouring the issue at this point is just absurd.

I accessed the best advice and provided Butterfly with the best care this community had to offer. Most of it was helpful to us. Only that from your office was wanting. How we made our choices, how we live and what we believe is simply none of your business. What was your business was to attend to our medical needs, and on several occasions you have fallen short, as you did this time. (We attended that appointment to get results of her brain scan, which you failed to provide, despite my asking repeatedly.)

When I went to you a couple of years before I had Butterfly and told you something was wrong with my pregnancy, you sent me away with condescending words. I wound up in hospital shortly after with a miscarriage. When I went to you with acute stress during a very trying time in my life, you didn’t even take my blood pressure. You offered me Ritalin. (Ritalin, by the way, is an amphetamine ~ a stimulant. You know, like caffeine? Something else you apparently don’t grasp. You seem to think that Butterfly needs Ritalin, but not a stimulant. ??) You routinely belittle your patients, laughing at them when they don’t know what’s wrong with them. Why do you think they go to a doctor? Apparently all you care is that you go home at the end of the day feeling superior to others. Butterfly left your office on June 8th sobbing. I guess making your young patients cry makes you feel like a big man. Since there is a doctor shortage in this community, we have tried to make the best of what we had, but enough is enough.

No patient should ever have to put up with the verbal abuse you heaped on my daughter and me on June 8th. By copy of this letter, I’m requesting that the College of Physicians and Surgeons investigate your conduct. Someone with your undisciplined temperament and anger control issues, and who routinely puts his own petty emotional needs ahead of his patients’ health care, should simply not be practising family medicine.



*The name is disguised.

Since there is a postal strike right now, a copy of the this was forwarded to the College of Physicians and Surgeons by email.