IN THE COMMENTS: Peter Palladas tells this story:
I had an email from a strange woman - like you do - some years back. She had been visiting her GP with concerns about a weird lump in her belly.Pogo -- a doctor -- wrote:
GP had written it off - as they do - as something and nothing. A lipoma [bundle of harmless fat] is the most common guesstimate made in such circs.
But she wasn't satisfied and began searching the Web for options: 'lump, unexplained, useless GP, death,' etc.
That search took her to something I'd written about my own fucking disease - soft tissue sarcoma - where I'd moaned about ignorant GPs who don't know their lipoma from their sarcoma.
So she went back to her GP and told her to think again. So GP did have another think and lo and behold this woman did have exactly a soft tissue sarcoma the size of a bowling ball in her gut.
Surgeons whipped it out pronto and a life was saved.
Palladas is on to something. Physicians were trained to be a priestly class, whose secret knowledge and arcane phrases must be translated to be understood.
A familiar taunt of patients who had read a bit (circa 1980) was and where did you go to medical school?. And boy did that shut them up.
This isn't so much the case anymore, and the Internet has become the modern equivalent of the Protestant reformation, wherein the priest can be bypassed, and salvation gained independently.
ADDED: My grandmother was regarded as a hypochondriac for many years, when in fact, she was suffering from scleroderma, which eventually killed her. So not only did she suffer horribly from the disease, she also had to endure the extreme disrespect of doctors and family members who saw her as an annoying crazy old lady.