My Doctor Used the “R” Word


We finally decided on a pediatrician and had our first appointment. We really liked her. She was cheerful, the boys connected with her and her words even got Ben to try eating a vegetable. She agreed with Max’s treatment plan and even called specialists for us to make sure we saw the exact doctors she wanted us to see in a timely manner. She took notes on Max’s file and asked us a lot of questions.

There was an issue with a prescription she wrote so I had to go back into the office. As I was waiting, the doctor came into the hallway so the office manager could explain the situation. She had written the script so it read that we only needed 1 pill vs. 1 month’s worth of pills. The doctor was told that the pharmacy wouldn’t fill it that way. They wanted a corrected script. That’s when I heard the words “That is so retarded, just call them and tell them to fill it.” Do you hear the sound of tires screeching? I did. Wait. What did she just say?

I took the new prescription and left, but I can’t stop thinking about it. I posted what had happened on Facebook and all 16 commenters insisted I find a new doctor for the boys. I find that word to be offensive. I hate that she used it. But is it cause to find a new doctor?

I keep telling myself that I misunderstood her, but I know I didn’t. I keep telling myself that I should take a stand and leave the practice after only one visit and make sure to tell them exactly why I did. But part of me doesn’t want to. Part of me just wants to pretend it didn’t happen because I just don’t want to find another doctor. Maybe gently mention it the next time we see her and let her know that I found it offensive. I mean, I have friends who have used the word and I’ve told them how I feel about it. I haven’t stopped being friends with those people.

After all the research I did when we first moved here, she was the one we liked best. She was recommended by friends, who when their son was in the hospital for a week after surgery, she came to visit him every day. Max’s file is hundreds of pages long and we’d have to transfer that over again, go over his history again, introduce him to someone else again, connect with someone new. I just dread it. I know to many of you reading this, if not all of you, it’s a no brainer. Just find a new doctor. But I’m curious to hear from other parents of children with medical issues. Have you been with your doctor a while, or just really connected with him/her? If so, would you leave over something like this or confront him/her and move on? I could really use some wisdom.

21 comments on “My Doctor Used the “R” Word”

  1. Thanks all for the comments. My husband and I really feel like staying with this doctor but having a conversation about using that word is the right choice for us. Also, my friends who recommended her to us will also be speaking to her about their feelings. As always, I appreciate the support and opinions.

  2. As another commenter pointed out, we grew up in an age when, unfortunately, the “R” word was used loosely in exactly the way your doctor did. She probably grew up in that age as well. Given how much you liked her despite the slip, I think you’re better off talking to her about it and seeing how she reacts. My guess is that she probably didn’t even realize what she had done, will be mortified, and will become a better pediatrician because of it. Good people can occasionally make bad and offensive mistakes. Given everything you say about what you did like (and only because of that), this may be a one of those situations that’s worth the investment to try to improve rather than just walk away.

  3. I think I know what doctor you’re talking about! I’ve caught ours saying the same word and was appalled but I absolutely love her practice otherwise.

  4. Frankly, I just think the doc should be sent a link to this post and all the comments! Seriously…what’s her email? 😉

  5. I think “slip of the tongue”s are very different when using words that are directly offensive to a particular person or group of people. If the slip was the ‘N’ word would you feel differently?

    I’m not sure what I would do in your situation, but am still so shocked that an educated professional who works with children (of various needs!) would even have that word in her vocabulary.

  6. I agree with Audrey, Kristie and a few others… bottom line we are all human and slip and she didnt say it to you directly and maybe it was just a slip of the tongue. I’ve been known to use damn it and F**k at maybe the not right time from time to time. Wish you luck!

  7. I agree that you’re in a tough spot. I also think that we all make mistakes, and I’ve been known to have a “heat of the moment” slip of the tongue myself. My suggestion is to keep that in mind, nobody’s perfect, and speak to your doctor. Good ones that your kids like, that you like, are hard to find.

  8. I would probably give her another chance. If in every other way she is a great doctor and does a really good job taking care of your boys then this might be something you just want to mention to her the next time you go in. I am by no means making an excuse but sometimes people just don’t realize what comes off as offensive. This definitely would not make me go out and find a new doctor. If someone said something that bothered me i would certainly speak up and tell them to please refrain from using those words or phrases in my presence again. However, at this point I would give it another shot before deciding to go and switch doctors. I agree with many other people posting, a good pediatrician is so difficult to find.

  9. I also told you via fb to find a new doc, but the situation is more complex than I had known. I would probably stick with her, but have a frank discussion about how much it bothered you to hear her use that word and why it bothered you so much. I know it will be a difficult conversation and you aren’t a confrontational person, but when you think about how hard it will be to talk to her and how much you’d rather just let it go, think about all the strength Max has shown with everything he’s been through and summon some of if for yourself so you can turn on your “mama bear” for a brief moment. Good luck!

  10. I come from the position that our job is to educate people. You can’t educate her if you just leave. If it was epilepsy related, I would explain the misconception or how rude the comment is. Special needs is the same way. As is the term gay. We use words all the time that hurt people, and don’t realize it. The only way to change it is awareness, and that may come only one person at a time. Since everything else went well, I would hate to leave, but I would hate to stay without saying something that is clear and direct. I don’t beat around the bush. I would do have this conversation with a stranger, a friend, a family member, my students or my child. And certainly with anyone that will work closely with my child. Just my thoughts.

  11. It is hard to find a good doc and even harder to find a doc who will get a child to try a vegetable. I was under the assumption when reading the title of this that the word was spoken to you or your child, so maybe I’m just thinking “well, it’s not nearly as bad as my first thought,” but I would give her a second chance, talk about the situation with her, and gauge whether or not to leave on her reaction.

  12. It’s a no brainer to me that I wouldn’t even think about leaving. It’s a doctor you think has your son’s best interest at heart and you were pleased with her treatment plan & demeanor otherwise. If my son’s psychologist slipped up in the same manner, the fact that he’s been great & my son loves seeing him would be more important to me.

    That said, I’m also not one who thinks twice about the types of remarks others may find offensive, particularly when it’s something like this describing a situation, not a person. As Audrey mentions, I think this is one of those words that many of us grew up using and slip up unintentionally. I’d bet my last dollar that if you mention it to her, she will be quite apologetic.

  13. I grew up with an autistic/developmentally delayed brother and experienced public ridicule from peers and grown ups when out in public with him. My brother was of the generation when medical professionals would advise parents to institutionalize children like him. Luckily, my parents fought back and he currently lives a productive and happy adult life. I heard the “r” word in reference to him far more than I can even count! My point? An accidental slip of using the “r” word, not in reference to your child, is probably something she never even considered and isn’t worth changing a good doctor over. If she told you to “put him in an institution and forget about him” like a doctor said about my brother, that’s terms for finding a new doctor. Or, if she referred to your child with the “r” word that would be grounds, in my opinion, for changing. From her perspective, I bet your doctor didn’t even realize she said it. And, it sounds like it was in no way in reference to your child. Words can hurt, but actions speak more than words and it sounds like your doctor’s actions are admirable.

  14. Add me to the FB commenters who said to get a new doctor… It SEEMS like it’s so black and white, but reading this, I realize that it’s not. Still… I don’t understand how a pediatrician – and one who had JUST met with a parent who has a child with medical issues – would EVER use that word. Ever. To her, it might be innocent, but her ignorance doesn’t make it forgiveable to me. I think I would have to leave. BUT, I also know that I don’t walk in your shoes and I don’t know what is best for your family. Perhaps you should follow Jillian’s advice and see how she reacts and how THAT makes you feel. If you are comforted by it, then give her another chance. Hugs to you, Kris Ann. I know this is difficult. 😦

  15. I would bring it up to her the next time you’re there. Come from a place of caring, because you do. She might not realize she’s saying it (like your friends) and by you saying something you will be helping her and saving other parents from going through the same emotions you’ve been feeling.

  16. I might be swayed, though I was also one of the ones on FB who said you should switch. It is a huge pain to find a new doc, especially one you click with. I don’t know if I’d be comfortable saying something to her and then staying; would you? I think if I stayed I’d just decide to move on with a clean slate.

  17. I was one of those 16 people on FB who told you to get a new doctor, but now that I read the whole story, I’m not so sure. She did everything else right and she seems like a great fit for Max. I would definitely say something to her the next time you go in, though, or maybe stop by sometime when you don’t have the kids with you and just see if she has a minute. It’s a hateful phrase and she should know better, but maybe a brief, civilized discussion with you is just what she needs. So sorry this happened.

  18. As someone who has worked with people who have developmental disabilities, suffering from mental retardation, this offends me. A professional should know better. As a parent, I have confronted our pediatrician a few times over the past 7 years.

    Jack was sick, fevers & congestion, every 3-4 weeks when he was an infant. The doctor always commented, “Well, he is in daycare.” when I inquired about the frequency of his illness. My response would then be that none of the other kids were sick.

    Of course, I took Jack to my asthma/allergy doctor when he was 2 years old and he was diagnossed with asthma. We now regularly see a pediatric pulmonary specialist along with an allergist as Jack has peanut allergies. He also has ADD so we work with a neurologist. He still goes to the pediatrician for any illness and annual check ups.

    Make the decision that is best for you. I would mention that the comment was offensive.

  19. My friends use it ALL THE TIME… unfortunately, I feel that it was the “it” word when we were growing up in high school and some people never grew out of it. My friends know that I’m a special ed teacher and it bothers the heck out of me (even before I knew I was going to work in this field it bothered me), and they always apologize after they say it. But they still say it. I am still friends with them, as their friendship has gotten me through a lot. You’ve been through a lot with Max. You’ve finally found a doctor who cares and is understanding. Your kids connect with her. You did your research, you like her the best. If I were you, I would just mention it next time you’re there and try to move on with the doctor/patient relationship. Let it be strike one. People might disagree with me, but if you know she’s the best suited for your family then this is a very small infraction, no matter how offensive it is to some of us.
    Hope this helps!

  20. That is a tough one. While I do not condone that if you like her maybe talk to her about it. She did not say it with you in the room and honestly I have definitely said things behind closed doors which are not politically correct and or something I would never say to a client. Be open and discuss this with her before you make a decision.

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