"You Can’t Have That or You’d Be Dead By Now"

on 10 17, 2009

Puzzled Baby

Sharing ridiculous comments made by doctors can be a bittersweet form of validation for patients.

For a little bit of fun (I figured we could use it), I originally created a discussion thread on the National Organization for Rare Disorders (NORD) Community Forum with this title, and it turned out to be a popular place to share crazy-making comments from health care professionals in dire situations and sad circumstances. Being able to find some humor it in seems to mean a lot to patients just trying to feel better…

I’ll kick off the list with a couple of my favorites…

“You can’t have that or you’d be dead by now.”

“You ask too many questions — I have other patients.”

Psychiatrist’s note in file: “Likes to collect diagnoses.”

“I thought you had that, but I didn’t order the test to prove it because you’re on medications that would interfere with the test.”

“You can expect your health decline as you get older.” (I was 30.)

“I’m sure if we locked you in a closet you’d stop eating and lose weight.” (Quoted from my good friend Sharmyn McGraw.)

“I’m not familiar with how the test is done — I just know you have to have it.”

From a pain management specialist: “You’re telling me that you have pain all over your body. What do you expect me to do for that?!”

“Perhaps it’s time to consider that you don’t have any more options.”

I went to a neurologist because a brain tumor was suspected. He refused to give me an MRI or any kind of test, and wrote in his note to my doctor “There’s nothing neurologically I can do for her.”

“You can’t just go from doctor to doctor and expect them to help you… I’m going to refer you to…”

“The only thing that’s going to cure you is gastric bypass surgery.” (I had Cushing’s Disease — it the surgery didn’t kill me I would have still continued to gain weight uncontrollably.)

I said to the doctor “I told the nurses I had recent surgery.” and he replied “It doesn’t matter what you told the nurses who admitted you — they don’t know what they’re doing.”
“I don’t know why I had you come in — looking at your lab reports there’s really nothing I can do for you.” (The bill for the visit was $185.)


Rheumatologist after poking me all over and seeing I’m in great pain (I practically leapt of the table when he grabbed my foot which hurt the worst): “The best thing I can recommend is trying to walk a little bit more every day to lose weight.”

I asked the same rheumatologist: “Do you have access to a medical database that I wouldn’t have access to that might provide answers?” Answer: “Why when you have the Internet?”

Rheumatologist at Cedars Sinai: “You don’t have that – it’s too rare.”
Rheumatologist at Wake Forest after probing painful lumps all through my neck: “There are only two or three rheumatic conditions that cause the kind of pain you’re describing, and you don’t have them.” (I don’t know how he knew – he hadn’t drawn any blood or done any other tests.) “Have you seen a psychiatrist?” (Asked me three times.) And “Why the tears? Are you depressed? If you had Sjogrens, you wouldn’t be crying right now.” (Two weeks later I travelled to see a rheumatologist I trusted, was diagnosed with Sjogren’s, put on the medication I knew I needed, and the pain in all my joints went away.)


And my all time favorite — “You’ll have to ask a (insert name of another specialist) about that.”
I’m looking forward to reading your additions to the list! Please leave a comment…


Comments (20)


  1. Sharon says:

    Before a colonoscopy the DR. says to you “Oh great, they always give me the hardest patients to do.”

  2. Celeste Burckhardt says:

    “You just can’t come in for a test everytime you find a list of symtoms for a disease that matches your symptoms” then at the end of the visit he says, “let me know if you find any other disease that has your symptoms”.

  3. Donna says:

    When I asked the rheumatologist’ PA to look at how purple my feet had turned in just the short time sitting on the exam table talking to her she looked down at her feet and responded mine too. (they were as white as a ghost)

  4. Donna says:

    I went to the surgeon to have a second biopsy of a new lipoma done as the allergist thought I one might be a sterile abcess. He refused to biopsy it stated it was just another lipoma and he did not want to make a patchwork quilt out of me. ( wow he must be pretty crafty)

  5. Donna says:

    When I told the endocrinologist that I had memory loss and I had to program my GPS to get me to where I was going or I’d forget, she stated she gets lost without her GPS. Not a doctor I wanted to see again.

  6. Donna says:

    I was referred to a cardiologist for SOB, Ekg show abnormal heart rhythm he wrote in his note no need for treatment she is asymptomatic.

  7. An internist told me the reason my fasting blood sugar was 46 was that my father was a minister. And since “all minister’s kids have emotional problems,” I should see a psychiatrist.

  8. Cristy Fiala says:

    Cool. Thanks for putting up this. Its always awesome to see someone give back to the interet.

  9. Ellen says:

    Thanks for the nice comment, Cristy!

  10. Yvonne says:

    This is a conversation I had with a newly-qualifed UK GP a couple of years back, when I was attempting to get a diagnosis for my hypothyroid symptoms:

    GP: Your thyroid tests show nothing wrong.

    Me: So what is wrong, if I’ve got all these symptoms?

    GP: Are you married?

    Me: No.

    GP: Do you have children?

    Me: No.

    GP: Do you live alone?

    Me: Yes.

    GP (triumphantly): Oh well, perhaps you’re depressed! Would you like to try some anti-depressants?

    If I’d been feeling well, I’d probably have told him where to stick that idea. As it was, I burst into tears and he scurried off to consult with one of other GPs in the practice. Another blood test followed and I subsequently was diagnosed with autoimmune hypothyroiditis. I resisted the temptation to tell the idiot GP “I told you so”.

  11. Ellen says:

    Thank you for comment, Yvonne… This is unfortunately something I hear all too often.

  12. Julie says:

    I was finally diagnosed with hypothyroidism because my levels were barely low. But on the way to that discovery the doctor I went to took blood tests for PCOS. He sent them in said they’d be back in a few days then prescribed me metaformin. Because he swore it would come back positive. I did as the doctor said, that is the reason they go to school so long right? HMM. Well, after passing out twice and my blood sugar dropping to dangerous lows and once I was at college ( which I no longer attend, cause of depression from this I dropped out) I went into the drs office after an ER visit and he told me to immediatly stop taking it my results were back and that’s not what it was. Then he laughed and said ” I’m just trying to kill you”.

  13. Ellen says:

    Wow, Julie – scary! Not to mention that as far as I know, there’s no blood test for PCOS. He could have tested your testosterone levels, but metformin certainly doesn’t treat high testosterone!

  14. Deborah says:

    Pain Management Doctor: You should have know your dose was high.

    Me: But I am not a doctor or a physician

    PM: You are responsible for your health care

    Me: (after he told me he wanted to switch me to Morphine which I am allergic too). Okay then if I am responsible then I do not want to be on Morphine

    PM: Well you have no choice

    Me: But you said I was responsible for my health care and pill intake.

    PM: Well not for this. I know what is best for you.

    Wow, I had a horrible experience with this guy.

  15. Ellen says:

    Deborah, thank you for sharing this. I had a similar experience with pain management doctor – I ended up writing a letter to the clinic’s quality control board, and soon after he was no longer at the clinic. Since then I did find a much more helpful pain management specialist, who has completely improved my quality of life by informing me of choices I didn’t know I had.

  16. Miriam says:

    After being diagnosed by a rheumatologist with a pain disorder I didn’t have, she tried to prescribe me a pain killer to tide me over until I went to see the next doctor she recommended. After asking her ten separate times if the medication contained ibuprofen (I’m allergic) and consistently getting a “no” answer, she finally said, “well, it’s in the same class, but the other ones don’t work nearly as well”. You’d think an allergy that requires an EpiPen would have had her think a little more! (And the pain killer she ended up giving me did absolutely nothing…what a shame.)

  17. Ellen says:

    Miriam, your story shows how difficult it can be to be truly heard by doctors… and why it’s so important to double-check on our own everything a healthcare practitioner tells us to do. We are the ones that need to be in charge of our healthcare and to find expert consultants (doctors) to guide us in our decisions. Thank you for your post!

  18. Anna says:

    My husband is still undiagnosed. He’s rapidly deteriorating. If anyone can offer any assistance, we’ve more than exhausted any resources we have in our state. It’s to the point that he can’t even get help at our local ERs. The last ER doc came in and said, “well I’ll do an exam but according to your records it’s all in your head.”
    A PCP said to my husband that “Well if I was bedridden for a year I’d be depressed too.” after my husband turned down taking antidepressants for an undiagnosed sickness.
    Another PCP said, “I have a family and a life you know.” and “I have other patients that are sicker than you.” Before running any tests or having an appointment longer than five minutes with him.

  19. Angel says:

    “Stop looking for a diagnosis and go to a hospital and hold AIDS babies and realize how lucky you are”…..I kid you not!

  20. Cal12 says:

    After being sick for over a year, 30 lb unintentional weight loss, still without a diagnosis and being shuffled from one ‘specialist’ to the next here are some of my personal favorites: “If anything was wrong something would have showed up by now” “You probably have Lupus it’s not so bad you can just take a pill for that” “You are very thin and underweight” “you cant have X that is too rare” “you should be grateful that everything sinister has been ruled out so whatever you have cant be that bad” and my all time favorite with my supportive husband sitting next to me ” It could be stress from your family or your job that is causing this” so with that I turned to my husband and said “So this is all your fault!!”

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