a doctor speaks but his word-bubble is actually an hour-glass losing time

3 Things Doctors Should Think Twice About Before Saying

We love doctors. They are the ones with the wisdom to diagnose and help people manage COPD. Most are very kind and passionate people and most of what they say is also kind, considerate, and helpful. Still, I have heard doctors say things that do more harm than good. Here are 3 things doctors should not say to their COPD patients.

You have only x months/years to live

"Look, you have only two years to live."

"You have two weeks to live."

"You have, at most, three years to live."

"At most, you may have two months to live."

Look, I understand why they might say something like this: they want you to take your COPD seriously. If you told me I only had two months to live, I’d definitely take my COPD seriously. But it would also throw me into a major depression and I have seen many patients over the years get depressed because of such a phrase being said by their doctors.

But, truth be told, only God knows how long a person will live. I have never met, nor heard of, a doctor with the power of God. No one has the knowledge to know how long someone will live, not even doctors.

This is especially true of our disease. People are living longer and better than ever before with COPD. This is thanks to modern researchers, wisdom, and medicine. I have heard from many patients who said their doctor said they only have x months/years to live and many of these patients lived well beyond the prediction. In fact, one patient I had was told he had two weeks to live. He lived another ten years.

What should doctors say instead?

“Look, if you continue on your present course, you probably have only x months/years to live. But, if you make these lifestyle changes, you may be able to live much longer.”

You have end-stage COPD

It's "the most dreaded term used to describe COPD."

So why is it used? Well, it’s basically another term for the 4th and final stage of COPD. It’s the last stage. It’s the end-stage. It's an older term often used to describe the 4th stage of COPD so many doctors simply use this medical term when explaining the disease to you.

Using “end-stage” may be fine when explaining COPD stages to medical people but to patients living with COPD, it sounds hurtful. It implies that the end is near. As noted above, only God knows when the end is near.

What should doctors say instead?

“Look, there are 4 stages of COPD. You are currently in the 4th stage. You need to take your COPD seriously."

You have COPD so you must have smoked

Smoking is by far the most common cause of COPD. However, many people never smoke and develop COPD. Some people have genetic COPD. Some people developed it due to inhaling harmful substances in the air at their work. Some people developed it due to another disease such as severe asthma, and many smokers don't get COPD. So, it’s false to assume that just because someone has COPD that they also smoked.

What should doctors say instead?

A doctor could ask you questions like "Did you smoke?" If you say no, then subsequent questions should help them discover the true cause of your COPD.

Choosing words wisely

These are all things I have heard doctors say to patients. Thankfully, the best COPD doctors are well educated and are careful with their words. What about you? Have you heard things you think doctors should not say? If so, let us know in the comments below.

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