Dear doctor: I don’t care if you’re mad.

Chad Hayes, MD posted a piece on his site titled, “Dear Anti-Vax Parents: We’re Not Mad At You“. In it he apologizes for the harsh tone that many in the medical community have taken following the Disneyland measles outbreak and asserts that doctors aren’t upset with non-vaccinating parents, they’re just mad that their poor patients have been lied to and duped. He calls for the two sides to join together, but then fails to take into consideration that by playing the expert card and downplaying their concerns he’s not really engendering trust. Instead he comes off like a parent telling their child they won’t be in trouble anymore if they just do what they’re told.

As I posted as a comment to his post, I honestly couldn’t care less if a doctor is mad at me or not. But I do care when one treats me poorly, threatens social services, uses ridiculous scare tactics, or kicks me out of a practice for not following their suggestions to the letter. (And yes, all of these things have happened to me and/or personal friends for reasons related to vaccination.)

It took me a while to find a doctor that would work with us in making decisions on which vaccines to give and when. I just wanted to find someone that would answer my questions and treat me like the concerned parent I am, rather than as an uninformed, emotion-driven idiot who bases decisions on celebrity opinion and shouldn’t be trusted to make decisions for my child.

I know I am not alone on this. One of the most common question asked on the local “crunchy moms” online groups I frequent is “How can I find a doctor that will work with me?” (on vaccines, but also other issues like CAM use). They’re looking for the good doctors, the ones that will take their legitimate concerns into account. Unfortunately those good ones are hard to find, and once the word gets out they often fill up quick and stop taking new patients.

Many people report it can be really hard to get questions answered by a doctor without being force fed information and told to swallow it or get out, especially when it comes to vaccines. Doctors must be open to questions, rather than assume a god complex.

Most parent’s concerns about vaccination are related to safety, and are not baseless. It’s a fact that some vaccines do sometimes cause harm, so ignoring that does nobody any good. Much better to address questions directly, from a scientific standpoint, without hyperbole.

As I’ve posted about before, I think both sides on the vax debate could come together if we focus on vaccine efficacy and safety, and not on trying to prove each other wrong.

Similarly, doctors and patients might be able to come together if both sides listen to each other and accept their role. We do go to doctors for their expertise. You are paying for their advice so it makes sense to listen to them and consider their reasoning. But doctors also need to recognize that we know our kids best and are the ultimate decision makers.