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Tell Everyone about Your STDs and IV Drug Use

If you think you have anything like medical privacy when you lose your vision, think again. I suspect that there is a secret clause in HIPAA that says, “This doesn’t really apply to anyone who is blind.”

Some years ago, my eighty-year-old mother came to visit. Since she would only be in town for a few days and we wanted to maximize our time together, she accompanied me to a routine doctor’s appointment. When I checked-in, I was handed a multi-page questionnaire to complete regarding my medical history. Not thinking twice (fool that I was), I handed it to her to read. All went well as we worked our way through the first page. The forty or so other people surrounding us paid little attention to my answers about my height and weight but, I’m sure, became all ears when Mom began reading, “Have you ever had any of the following: heart attack, cancer, sexually transmitted diseases …” Oops, so much for medical privacy.

Recently, my wife and I went for our annual medical check-up. I suppose, in the interest of saving time, we were ushered in to see the doctor at the same time. The nurse, to her great credit, had waited to ask all of those probing questions about our checkered medical histories until we were all in the examining room. Then, she began, “Now, John, how frequently have you used IV drugs in the last year? How many sexual partners have you had in the last five years?” I was tempted to answer the last question by asking if I “could have a few minutes to think about it” but was relatively certain that Sue wouldn’t find this nearly as amusing as I would.

Thinking that I could circumvent another episode of intellectual nudity before everyone in the waiting room, a few years ago, I asked the doctor’s office to mail the questionnaire to me so it could be completed in the privacy of my own home. It seemed like a great idea until the young female college student who was helping me complete it got down to “How often do you have trouble with hemorrhoids? Diarrhea? Incontinence?”

So, the next time you’re in the hospital and are embarrassed when the nurse asks about your bowels, you get no sympathy from me.

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These posts may also be of interest:
The Dumbest Questions I’ve Ever Been Asked
Sugar in Your Gas Tank

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