Well, it’s finally happened. The kid’s brain seems to have expanded; while the overwhelming majority of his time, attentions, and desires continue to rest firmly in the video game world, there is now JUST enough brain left over for him to realize that after nearly four months at home with his mother, he’s bored.

So if he’s not actively blowing up other teams or armored reptiles or space aliens (a practice that requires extremely loud screams with his online buds in which he rags on them mercilessly – and one assumes they rag on him – and then everyone howls with laughter), he is wandering the house in search of something.

He doesn’t know what he’s looking for, but I’ll tell you: I kind of dig it. Because mostly what he ends up doing is throwing himself down on the chair in my office to see if I can entertain him at all. We end up talking, which seems otherwise unlikely, given that he’s going to be a senior in college in the fall. We talk cars. We talk about book publishing. We talk (and I stay focused, mostly) about video games.

But what my son loves most is to argue.

How we got on the subject, I can no longer remember – but I found myself in a heated debate with him about the role of doctors in society. This is, as I’m sure you understand, a topic upon which NEITHER of us has even the slightest experience or wisdom – but his eyes began to shine and he sat up straighter. Conflict? Debate? I can call you an idiot? This is Rusty’s mental playground. I hope to hell he ends up in law school.

The premise: Is it a doctor’s responsibility to safeguard, maintain, or regain general health?

I took the positive. Hell, yes – my doctor ought to be the first person I turn to in the low-priority, endless quest to be healthy.

Rusty took the negative. Hell no – a doctor should be able to identify life-threatening conditions and that’s it. If you want to improve your health, you go to Barbara at Body Dynamics. (Rusty’s heard me shout Barbara’s praises ALMOST as often as you have.) You go see a trainer.

“What?! That’s absurd! You think a doctor plays no role in HEALTH??”

“A doctor plays a role in CANCER. Beyond that, get out of my office.”

Oh, a battle for the ages was joined. We hammered at each other like titans at the forge; the valleys rang with the echoes from our volleys. He with mighty Mjolnir balanced on his shoulder, me with Excalibur making tiny, threatening circles in the air above his skull.

It was the best gift I could have given him.

But eventually I wore out. I’m so much older than he is. “Now you’re just making me tired. Go away.”

“Hah! That’s because you know I’m right!”

“You’re absolutely not right. I’m just done with this. Go play a video game.”

“Oh, come on – you think a doctor has time to care about your general health? They get minutes – MINUTES – with a patient. How are they supposed to help you with anything as hard to define as improved health?”

“Get out. Get out of my office. I’m begging you.”

“Well, this is the most fun I’ve had in weeks. Bye, Mom.”

Sigh. The worst thing is, I sort of wonder if he isn’t right – and that makes me EVEN MORE tired.

You don’t want to weigh in on this, do you? Do you expect your doctor to safeguard (or restore) your health? Or do you only expect the doctor to stop you from dying? Tell me in the comments. If you agree with me, I’ll tell the kid. If not, he can slaughter digital bad guys in happy ignorance.


Born to argue. Is it time for him to go back to college yet??

6 thoughts on “Debate

  1. You’re both right and wrong. The doctor’s role is to follow his passion. If he wants to cure cancer, do it. If we wants to do face lifts, do it. If he wants to study the effects of moonlight on vegans, go for it. He, or she, in a free society is free to choose whatever course of study and discipline desired. So long it does no harm.


    1. I cheer your views; you’re right, of course! But consider the case of the everyday, average general practitioner. Is he supposed to safeguard your health, or just keep you from dying?


  2. Doctors, nurse practitioners, PAs – I believe the role of a general practitioner is advise us on our overall health, things we need to do to improve or stay healthy and treat what they can. Good ones I know take a holistic view – prevention, education, treatment, care. Their job is to listen, treat and advise. This includes looking at our blood pressure and other vitals – including blood work, understanding our family history and listening to our concerns, symptoms, lifestyle, stressors, life circumstances. Then, to discuss those things with us, advise us on what we can do and are responsible for, prescribe a treatment and hope that we follow their advice. If we need a specialist then they are focused on why we were sent to them – but to also look at us holistically in case something was missed by the person who sent us there. My son is finishing a BS so he can go to PA school and work in rural, underserved areas where healthcare is not accessible and self knowledge is low. His belief is that you can educate anyone under 30 to change how they view medical care – especially preventive care so chronic illnesses don’t develop. This shows me, sadly, that if you are over 30 your trust in medical providers, willingness to change habits, etc. is not very flexible. This is off topic – but it also sadly shows how poverty and education play a role in the healthcare crisis that exists in this country.


    1. Ellen, seriously – I want to go to your doctor! Alas, I’m Kaiser, so… minutes only with an overworked physician. Sigh. PS: your son is magnificent!


  3. Wow. Totally love what Ellen wrote above — and definitely agree. Which means — both you and Rusy are right. Ideally, i imagine that most doctors would love to be thoroughly holistic but simply do not have the time and can only squeeze in scanning the stats from blood tests etc. Also, as Ellen implied, I think many patients may lack the interest or wherewithal to take any kinds of steps beyond the most elemental. “Geez, Doc, stop lecturing me about exercise–and just give me a pill to make me better.”
    I will say that at my last general wellness appointment, when my Doctor heard that my husband has Pancreatic Cancer, she barely glanced at the stats and went right to talking about my mental wellbeing, and did I have good end of life information and support! To my slightly elevated cholesterol she said, “probably stress–and if not, we’ll deal wtih it next year.” It was just what I needed..


    1. I call that a WIN, Sarah! The fact that she knew or cared about your husband’s diagnosis already puts her head and shoulders above most doctors. But I note that you called it a “general wellness” appointment, and not an annual check-up. Is that your phrase? Or your doctor’s? Because it’s GOOD!


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