I read a wonderful article by David Brooks of the New York Times called “The Moral Bucket List”.   He spoke about what is really important in our lives. I saw him interviewed about the topic. He pointed out that as a result of our desire to make our children feel special there is a growing rate of the population who feel they are very important.   In 1950, twelve percent of high school seniors said they considered themselves very important. In 2005, the response was eighty percent.


Social media compounds the problem. With Twitter, Facebook and YouTube, one can easily be the star of his or her own show and many have become just that. Along with this attitude comes a sense of entitlement.   A great example of this is the recent rant by Britt Henry, an ESPN reporter who felt that since she was on television and “so important” that she could berate a towing company clerk.


In medical practice we see similar behavior. There are many thoughtful, grateful patients out there don’t get me wrong. But, there are some who feel entitled to immediate attention when it is not warranted and who don’t seem to understand that many of us are treating huge numbers of people. David Brooks has inspired me to come up with a moral bucket list for patients.


  • Be understanding. Improved access to health care has caused an overload to the medical system. The majority of doctors are trying very hard to fit everyone in. It may take some time for them to return non-urgent phone calls. Be patient. A little empathy goes a long way.


  • Be humble. If you see your doctor outside the office and mention an ailment, do not expect him or her to remember the details of your conversation. If you would like a plan of action, call his or her office if you would like the problem evaluated.


  • Be prepared. Know your medications and your dosages. It will save a lot of time. Do not expect your doctor to remember your list. Although there is a ist in the chart, it takes time to sift through the medical record and quite honestly, you should know what you are taking and how much.


  • Be honest and direct. Come prepared for your visit. Most doctors can figure out what is wrong with you if you give them a good history. We are not mind readers.


  • Be a steward of your own health and wellness. The majority of disease is due to poor lifestyle choices. You cannot expect your doctor to “fix” you. The only one who can help you is you. Your doctor can be your guide but you have to do the work.


Finding what is truly important in life is essential. Learning to handle life’s challenges with grace and humility is a start. When it comes to health a similar approach is needed. Treat your body with respect and appreciation and extend that same behavior to those who care for you as well. If you can do that, the world will definitely be a better place for all of us.