Medics are among the most celebrated members of society and for good reason; after all, who else will patch you up after another night of drunken escapades? Medical professionals of all levels work extremely hard to obtain the necessary qualifications for their chosen profession, before working an excessive number of hours in a physically demanding environment for the next few decades, all the while being emotionally drained by daily encounters with death and disease.
There is one group of people, however, who are even more familiar with disease and its consequences than medics. These people often spend decades under physically and emotionally demanding circumstances without so much as a bathroom break, nor do they get paid for doing so. The majority of these people might not know the physiology and pathology behind it, but those with chronic illnesses are no stranger to the disease they are forced to put up with like an untidy flatmate.
These two groups are perfectly poised to help one another; one armed with the knowledge and power to give medical aid, and the other to supply vital information on lived experience that no textbook could ever provide. Yet more often than not, these two groups are at loggerheads with each other. After years of being treated as heroes the medics become arrogant, and after years of not being listened to the patients become impatient and angry. Each side is biased against the other, and conflict is inevitable.
I am no stranger to this conflict. I’ve made videos and written extensively about negative encounters with medics. I also have a degree in nutrition and work in medical research; I may not be in a patient-facing role, but I certainly play my part in one of the most ableist industries on the planet. I know how frustrating it is not to be listened to and to be dismissed as an attention-seeking hypochondriac. I also know how insulting it is for years of hard work to be disregarded in favour of what some rando on the internet said. It’s easy to assume that someone is uncaring and not fit for their job. It’s also easy to assume that someone is just trying to make easy money or access drugs because, true or not, that’s how chronic illness patients are portrayed by mass media. Like everyone in the industry with an illness of their own, I’m caught in the crossfire.
As to how to resolve this conflict, I am less sure. It would be helpful if medics would listen to patients’ concerns with more care, and wouldn’t assume that the person in front of them is clueless and ignorant. It would also help if patients would put more critical thinking into their own research, and would try not to outright assume that every medic is their enemy. The prejudice and bias helps no one. The fact of the matter is that we need each other. Without medics providing any care at all, even if it has to be fought for relentlessly and is under constant threat, many chronic illness patients would be far worse off or even dead. Without chronic illness patients requiring long-term treatment and follow-up care, there wouldn’t be nearly as much work available for medics. Both sides deserve respect for their efforts, and both groups shape the future of society. I may sound like a peace-loving hippie, but by working together instead of against each other, both sides would benefit.