Tuesday, February 24, 2009
Why Men Don't Make Good Patients
"W ant to Live a Bit Longer? Speak Up." [Feb. 17] hit on one of the reasons men resist the health-care system: the revealing gowns that must be worn. To have one's body openly exposed to others is a form of humiliation.
I know there are more-dignified medical gowns available at a slightly higher cost, but most medical facilities do not give them to patients. Why? I think this is part of a larger issue about control, control by the medical profession. Men wish to escape the worst of these rules for as long as possible, while women in our society are taught to be more submissive and play by the rules.
Women are stronger health-care advocates because we're forced to be. We have to fight to encourage studies specific to our sex and to have access to accurate information when it becomes available. Hence, the development of women's health departments to facilitate this.
On the other hand, men do not take advantage of medical information and options available to them because of their dependency on women who take care of them and because of their lack of responsibility for their own health. Frankly, I think men need to learn how to take care of themselves, and women need to stop stepping in for them.
Until women overcome their underlying need for their husbands to depend on them in this way, nothing will change.
Care Coordinator for Women's Health Network and Men's Partnership
Somerville Primary Care
Isn't this behavior related to the idea that real men don't ask directions when driving? Men can figure it all out themselves. In contrast, the female attitude is that women ask for advice and turn to experts, assuming someone else knows better.
This is one case when a female's behavior shouldn't be more like a male's, because that would be like shooting ourselves in the foot, or worse!
I think there's another reason men don't seek out as much preventative care: We're told by our doctors not to! I am 28 and have had only two physical exams since I was 17.
After the latest exam, my doctor told me I was in good health and didn't need to come back for at least a few years. I wonder how many other men hear such advice. And is this advice determined by the health of the patient or by the full schedules of the diminishing roster of general medicine practitioners?
As a 51-year-old man, I think this behavior may stem from the difference in how each sex views mortality.
1. Men have this delusion throughout their lives that they are immortal. Learning about things that pertain to the inside of their bodies and their death is consciously avoided until it becomes unavoidable. At that point, it is then ignored as long as possible. "Oh, that little pain will go away. Besides it can't hurt me -- I'm immortal!"
2. Women are prepared at puberty for the end of things, including their own mortality. With that knowledge they seek to make life as healthy, happy and comfortable as possible.
Who Wants a Painful Death?
We were dismayed by the line, "Better still, when you hit age 75, you can delete prostate cancer screening from your checklist" ["What to Do in Your . . . ," Feb. 17]. If you ignore prostate cancer, you risk dying a very painful death in your old age if it does not remain indolent. Until researchers can genetically determine who is at greater risk for fatal prostate cancer, a man who reaches 75 should not readily forgo screening.
Living to 100 is attainable if you don't give up on yourself and don't let the medical community give up on you. Screening is important, and getting older signals the need to be more vigilant.
Virginia Prostate Cancer Coalition