When a New Doctor Rudely Remarked on the Diaper I Wear for Incontinence


I have been incontinent due to severe autonomic dysfunction for 10 years. Over that time, I have become accustomed to my condition. I have adapted and learned to be successful despite my disabilities. I have encountered many medical professionals over the years who, rather politely, ask about my bladder issues and show legitimate concern. They just want to know if I’ve been evaluated and have sought treatment for my condition. The answer is yes… extensively. I sought answers for years before finally being diagnosed at the age of 35. Incontinence is only part of the problem. I have many other issues that go with my dysfunction, such as cardiac problems, GI distress symptoms and breathing difficulty. My incontinence issues just go along with the disorder. I have been told there is no treatment for what I have and there is not a known cure. So I have learned to make the best of my situation and manage it the best I can.

Due to my chronic health issues, I have regular doctor’s appointments to evaluate the progressive nature of my condition. On one such occasion, I was seeing the dermatologist for an unrelated skin issue. For this type of appointment, a head to toe skin exam, one must remove most of their apparel for a thorough evaluation. Due to my incontinence, I wear adult diapers on a daily basis to manage my condition as other medical treatment has been unsuccessful. Now, the clinic I go to for treatment is a teaching facility with resident M.D.’s who are learning their craft. Hey, they have to get practice somewhere and I don’t mind.

So I was waiting on the dermatologist and a resident came in and looked me over as I sat there in just my “underwear” and asked me questions about my skin. Then towards the end, he very rudely asked, “How’s that diaper working out for ya?” I was taken aback. I have never been asked about my health issues like that. There was extreme sarcasm in his voice. Now, whenever I have discussed my health problems with my physicians, they are very professional and show concern. But this new doctor was quick to pass judgment on a patient he had never met. I don’t know what he was thinking. I can only imagine. But before he even got to know me, there was disdain in his voice.

I did not know what to say. I did not have a rude answer. I just humbly said, “OK I guess.” I was going to explain to him about my conditions, but his contempt was already clear. He then finished his exam in awkward silence and left the room. The attending physician came in who was already aware of my condition. This was not the first time he had seen me. My health information including diagnoses and extensive test results are all in my chart, but the previous resident had just failed to read it. The dermatologist completed a thorough exam without issue and said see you next year. I left feeling ashamed. And I should not have been over a condition for which I have no control.

In the end, this issue was resolved as my primary care doctor is the faculty chair over the facility and is the top supervisor for all the residents. I made her aware of the situation and she said she would have a very intense discussion with the resident to teach him proper etiquette.

So to the resident who showed contempt for me, I would like to tell you to get to know your patients. Their lives may rest in your hands. Use this as a learning experience. If you make them feel belittled, they may not tell you what is bothering them and their care may fall through the cracks. No patient who comes to you for care should feel inferior. You have the power to save and change lives, hopefully for the better. Use your time spent with them wisely. Oh, and read their chart!

Good luck to you!

Getty Image by Milos Spasic


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