The truth about lying to your doctor!

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Sabrina Almeida

Certain questions the family physician may ask at a physical exam can cause many of us to get defensive and evade the truth or just lie!

I squirm in my seat when asked how much of physical activity (meaning exercise) I get during the week. Summer appointments work better for me because I can proudly talk about my daily walk. Winter is a long and shameful story. The doctor reminds me about the benefits of exercising regularly and I nod my head promising to be better. The truth is nothing has changed over the years except the seasons.

How many hours of sleep I get at night is not my favourite topic either. After all there are so many things to accomplish… and sleeping takes a back seat in the bigger scheme of life.
The question about smoking and alcohol consumption I answer with a huge smile because I’m a teetotaler and non-smoker. Eating veggies is also not a problem as I prefer it to meat. So, I get more than the mandated 5-a-day.

No matter how embarrassing the questions—I am truthful. After all, my physician can only help me when she has the correct picture.

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An article I read in Huffington Post on lying to the doctor about how much alcohol one consumes, earlier this week, was an eye opener despite my common-sense approach. I learned that being dishonest about drinking, smoking, taking drugs or any health-related matter is a useless exercise because your doctor will figure it out. Diagnostic tests are like a school report card that will hang you out to dry. Certain markers such as enzyme and triglyceride levels and elevated blood pressure (without any other risk factors) are likely to give you away. Just like cholesterol levels are indicative of whether one eats a balanced diet and is physically active. Substance abuse is also likely to impact your recovery or the medications you are prescribed.

Simply put our lives are on the line here, not pride. Misinformation has a higher price than we are willing to admit!

An elderly uncle in India has always taken great pains to hide his age. Studies show it is one of the most common things that individuals lie about. As we joked about it on my recent trip, I asked him whether his doctor knew the truth. I tried to explain that medication is prescribed keeping age in mind. Pretending to be younger could mean he was not getting the right dosage. This could also complicate diagnosis of age-related conditions. He protested vehemently. In the end, he said that he could not tell the truth now as it would make him look bad.

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Yes, there is a smaller risk of us doing this here in Canada because important information like age is documented. What a relief!

Even more dangerous is dishonesty (or half-truths!!!) about medical history and prescription medication. This tends to happen when immigrants are updating their healthcare providers about medicines they were prescribed in the home country. Oblivious about drug interactions, they think nothing about leaving out ‘some information’ to show that all is well.

Saying that you take medicine as prescribed when you don’t is just as risky. This could result in the physician increasing the dosage or prescribing stronger alternative which is unnecessary as well as harmful.

An elderly South Asian gentleman passed away suddenly of heart attack. When going through the stuff in his dad’s apartment, his son found a stock of unused medication that was prescribed to control his blood pressure. It could be the reason for the fatality!

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Putting on a brave face and not revealing how much pain one is in or exaggerating symptoms can also be detrimental as the wrong treatment decisions will be made.

If you have been lying to your doctor, you are not alone. According to studies one in four people fib or fudge the truth. Either because they are ashamed or believe some things are not important. Moreover, age, alcohol and drug consumption, and following the medication regime are common things that patients lie about.

Since health care providers are aware and know what to look out for, the only person you are fooling is yourself. Stop lying to your doctor! -CINEWS

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