In a recent essay published in the New England Journal of Medicine, Dr. Suzanne Koven* recalls many conversations she had with her father (like her, a physician) in which he loved to reminisce about his own long career in medicine. But there’s one reminiscence she still bristles at, as she explains(1):
“The story was about ladies – always they were ‘ladies’ – and something he called la maladie du petit papier: ‘the disease of the little paper.’
“They would come to his office and withdraw from their purses tiny pieces of paper that unfolded into large sheets on which they’d written long lists of medical complaints. ‘You know what I did then?’ Dad asked. I did, but I let him tell me again anyway. ‘I’d listen to each symptom carefully, and say ‘yes’ or ‘I see’.
“That’s all. And when a lady finally reached the end of her list, she would say: ‘Oh doctor, I feel so much better!’
“The point is, all those ladies needed was someone to listen.”
The notion that whatever was bothering these silly ladies was all in their heads was once a long held truism within the medical profession. Continue reading “Should you bring that list of questions to your doctor?”