When Doctors Lie About the Pain

I have followed closely your many articles dealing with the doctor-patient relationship. I find these articles interesting and informative.

There is one area of such a relationship I would like to address. Sooner or later, most of us find we are a patient who must undergo some diagnostic or treatment procedure that involves very minor, or perhaps major, invasion of body tissue.

It never fails that when a doctor discusses these procedures he or she uses terms such as, "little or no discomfort involved," "it is a simple procedure, no anesthesia necessary," "you will be kept comfortable after it is over," "there is little sensation in that area, you may feel a bit of cramping, pressure," etc.

Patients then approach said procedure believing what they have been told, to learn with great shock and abused confidence that they are experiencing a good bit of pain.

More than once, I have questioned doctors about this. I was told that with some patients a doctor simply cannot be truthful. Too many patients would suffer agitation if they knew the facts about what they would undergo.

I find this thinking ridiculous and unfair. One such experience and a patient will never again trust the word of a doctor. A few such experiences and patients begin to expect every treatment to be a terrible experience.

It would be so much better if the doctor would say simply that some patients did experience pain . . . Everything possible would be done to keep that pain minimized . . . and the time it was felt as short as possible.

The doctor who is untruthful with a patient loses that patient's trust. This lack of trust is detrimental to all aspects of medical care and is in fact the one thing that keeps many people from going for medical care when it is needed. Betty Christensen Fairfax, Va.

Handguns (Cont'd)

Concerning the letter by Barbara Lautman of Handgun Control Inc. {Nov. 10}, it is fair to note that the National Rifle Association is not the only party in the war over handguns to cite misleading and inaccurate statistics. HCI claims over 20,000 handgun deaths per year, which is well in excess of the FBI's 1985 figure of just over 17,000. Furthermore, fewer than 8,700 of these deaths were homicides or accidents. (The 7,000-plus handgun suicides are more of a comment on the poor state of mental health care in the U.S. than the inherent danger of handguns.) Moreover, despite HCI's claim of an "epidemic of handgun deaths," homicides are in a long-term decline.

Regardless of hair-splitting over statistics, the fact remains that urban women -- particularly those who live alone -- run a high risk of violent crime, as all too graphically illustrated by the brutal stabbing last month of a Capitol Hill computer executive outside her apartment. There is also no doubt that, based on military and police experience, both men and women can safely and effectively use handguns for defense when given proper training. Gary A. Moore Alexandria

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