Dr. Drew & Loveline Crossed The Line, Suggested IC & Endometriosis Patient Seek Psychiatric Care and Outraged Patients Seek Justice in Social Media

(By Jill H. Osborne, ICN President & Founder)

The IC and Endometriosis communities were up in arms over the weekend after Dr. Drew Pinsky received a phone call at his LoveLine show on April 24th. The fiancé of an IC and endometriosis patient called in and before he could even ask a question, Dr. Drew went off on a rant about both conditions, suggesting that:

  • IC and endometriosis were “garbage bag” diagnoses that doctors use to classify conditions for which there are no pathological findings
  • his fiancé was “somatically preoccupied” with pain, thus driving repeated trips to the doctor
  • the fiance should be treated by a psychiatrist
  • that sexual abuse was the likely problem.

Can’t believe that any doctor would utter such nonsense? Listen to the conversation at this link, starting at 30:00.

IC blogger Tali Kateri gave summed up the conversation beautifully in her own blog “IC Ramblings“: The lack of empathy, concern, and morals is astounding here. Dr. Drew, in a sense, violated a Doctor/patient ethical code. His actions may have directly negatively affected a “patient” and in turn may have negatively affected almost 100 million people who suffer worldwide from these “garbage bag” diagnosed conditions…after the call ended he and his team continued to make a mockery of painful sex and pelvic pain.

As you can imagine, the outrage was instantaneous. Over the weekend, thousands of interstitial cystitis and endometriosis patients (and Drs.) used social networking to pressure Dr. Drew into apologizing for his statements.

One notable response on Facebook came from Dr. Ken Sinervo, the medical director for the Center for Endometriosis Care in Atlanta GA. He wrote “I have treated thousands of women with endometriosis, interstitial cystitis, and other conditions and their pain is real. In fact, it is the minority of patients that have a history of abuse, and their endometriosis is a condition that they were born with, becomes active after menarche, takes an average of 9-12 years to diagnose and is poorly treated by medicine as a whole, using ineffective medications to suppress the disease instead of excising the disease which offers a very high chance of success… I do 2-3 bowel resections a month for obstructive bowel endometriosis and 30 other surgeries a month for all stages of disease. You may have the longest running advice show, but you should know what you are talking about before you blurt out advice.”

Don’t you just want to stand up an applaud? Brilliant response and it’s absolutely refreshing to see such committed doctors educating other doctors!

The Apology

The apology came on Sunday night when Dr. Drew and co-host Mike took to the air to discuss the controversy. Watch the video here! The discussion is from 2:22 to 10:08. Make sure you listen to a caller with endometriosis at 1:07:00!

They were alternately irreverent and defensive. “Mike” was outraged by some of the criticism that the show and Dr. Drew took, particularly suggestions that Dr. Drew was uneducated. Dr. Drew is an MD but he is clearly not a pelvic pain specialist. Dr. Drew also made several mistakes in his apology, suggesting that the fiancé had not asked about endometriosis. Dr. Drew also said that they were talking about a “new girlfriend” rather than, as the caller had actually said, his fiancé. He did, however, say that he would be interested in doing a future podcast dedicated to IC and Endometriosis.

Mike’s “shock jock” approach was just creepy. He seemed to feel that it was appropriate to insult and demean pelvic pain patients who were protesting. At one point during the weekend, he suggested that they come down to the station and give him oral sex. Disgusting.

On the other hand, as Tali pointed out in a second blog, the end result is awareness and, though the circumstances are outrageous, there’s a very good chance that more people will learn about IC and endometriosis. She urged patients to leave anger at the door, “If you try to educate the public with anger they tune out… We need them to see us for what we are. People that have an uphill battle every step of the way, people that desperately wanted a baby and can’t because Endo has taken that away from them, people that have lost their marriages, jobs, happiness, and ability to function as a normal healthy person would and people that just want a little understanding.  We want them to view us as people who deserve respect.”

To The Fiance Caller

I’d also like to say something to the man who called the show to ask about his fiancé’s condition.. what Dr. Drew should have said but didn’t say. Thank you for taking the time to learn about your fiancé’s pelvic pain condition. Thank you for being there for her. Thank you for believing her. Thank you for having the courage to call a national show with your heart on your sleeve. We sincerely hope that, after the call, your relationship was strengthened, rather than undermined. As an IC patient, I can promise you that she will not only appreciate all that you do for her but when you face challenges, she will be there for you as well.

Doctors Often Limited By How They Are Trained

Doctors have a very difficult job. I understand their frustration when trying to diagnose complex conditions, such as pelvic pain. I believe that most try to ease the suffering of their patients. I also believe that their medical training, or lack thereof, determines how they treat others.

In the case of IC, most medical schools still don’t provide comprehensive courses in urologic chronic pain. As a result, many younger doctors have no choice to treat IC out of a textbook and we can only hope that it was released AFTER the 2011 AUA Guidelines were issued. God forbid they join a practice that doesn’t believe that IC and/or pelvic pain is real. (Yes, they still exist today.) That negativity will color their perspective and bedside manor for years to come.

And to the IC, endo and pelvic pain patients. We must stand strong and speak out, especially when public figures minimize our condition. We must tell our stories. We must educate others about IC. We should, at every opportunity, share good, valuable information about IC to anyone medical care provider that we work with.

Where can you get that information?? Right here on the ICN website. Please print out our 2 page AUA Diagnostic & Treatment Guidelines For IC and our 3 page IC Treatment Chart & Checklist and share! IC Awareness Month approaches and we want to kick it up a notch in 2014.

I’d like to end this with a reminder from Julie Beyer RD, author of the Confident Choices book series. She tweeted out ““It is the duty of every man to uphold the dignity of every woman.” (St. John Paul the Great). Happy to see that Dr. Drew retweeted that to his many followers. Can we take it a step further by suggesting that it’s also the duty of every doctor to uphold the dignity of their patients as well. I’m sure that he agrees!

Additional Resources & Links

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