DRHOOK- Different strokes: Prejudice shouldn't preempt care

the handsome doctor John Hong of Charlottesville

Commercials can be really fun, really boring, or really stupid. I've been watching a commercial featuring a California doctor who says she has to choose between her faith and her job.

Say what? On this freaky commercial by the National Organization for Marriage (NOM), this doctor utters these incredible words.

Assuming her comment is based on the issue of same-sex marriage (since this is the subject of the commercial), I'm left wondering how such a marriage affects her practice of medicine. (BTW, why doesn't NOM work on stopping domestic violence, divorce, and adultery to protect marriage?)

Are gay people hard to take care of?

If you don't think health care professionals discriminate against gay people, then let me show you a bridge I have for sale. When I was in medical school, a classmate of mine was talking about her missionary work and what she planned to do when she became a doctor. Then she suddenly looked disgusted, saying she hated taking care of gay people.

When I told her I was gay, I had to cover my neck because her fangs came out. Egad! (Doesn't she know that in the past discrimination kept women from becoming doctors? Now she's just passing the torch of prejudice.)

Also in medical school, an attending physician told us, "Never believe a homosexual. They all lie." I responded, "You're a really intelligent, kind man. Also, I'm gay."

Another attending physician at my medical school (ah, "Memories, like the corners of my mind...") held the flank of his back and said, "This is fag's sign, from a kidney stone." I said, "Those who live secret homosexual lifestyles shouldn't throw kidney stones." I could go on, but I'd have to write a small volume for all the prejudiced comments I heard.

Doctors are supposed to take care of patients, but often that isn't the case. A relative of mine recently had to go to a second hospital because staff at the first one wouldn't treat her for religious reasons. Is it just a matter of time before people are denied healthcare because a doctor doesn't agree with their lifestyle, beliefs, or looks?

I'll tell a patient my opinion if I think it's important, but I never force it on them. Who am I to judge? I have to respect my patients' values and lifestyles. Even mean, mean, mean patients deserve good care, although they tend to fire most doctors. So it really disturbs me to hear a doctor say such a hateful thing about gay people on national television. Gay people are people just like everyone else.

Many healthcare professionals are afraid to be openly gay because they fear discrimination not only from patients, but also from their colleagues. But what is worse is for a patient to be treated like a second-class citizen. I admit I have my prejudices, but I always put them aside to give my patients the best care possible. That is the ethical and human thing to do (I hope you are listening, Dr. California). 

Our nation seems to be tragically divided. People hate each other because others are different– and unfortunately, that extends to our healthcare system. Can you imagine being turned away from a doctor's office or hospital because you're divorced, have never been married, are married, drink caffeine, voted Republican, love your dog, are a particular religion, or simply because someone gossiped about you?


Dr. Hook cracks a joke or two, but he's a renowned physician with a local practice and an interesting website, drjohnhong.com. Email him with your questions.



I don't think it is unfair for a doctor to screen his practice in terms of trying to help those who just might have the ability to pay him. Too many abuse alcohol, tobacco, drugs and then cry for the rest of us to subsidize their intentional ignorance by paying for their ills through our taxes. When I see people eating fast food lunches of 5,000 calories at a pop I don't feel inclined to have my taxes pay for their cholesterol, blood pressure and diabetes medication. Time to get back to individual reponsibility and accountability. We have known about AIDS for decades and still people practice sex without protection, so no, my taxes should not pay for the arrogant who waste my tax money on their healthcare through intentional practices.

Straight people are SO f'ing gay.

As a former assistant at an aids clinic I will tell you that many many many gays do LIE about their medical and sexual history. I assume the reason they do this is the stigma, but it is a fact that it goes on.

And do heterosexual people always tell the truth about their medical and sexual history??

Great column, Dr. Hong, but your statement at the beginning is incorrect. The woman uttering those words in the National Organization for Marriage advertisement is not a doctor at all. She's an actress. In fact, NOM provided a disclaimer which states -- in print too small for most Internet viewers to read -- that everyone you see in the ad is a professional actor.

I don't doubt that homophobia is rampant in the medical profession. On one occasion I experienced a small but potent sample of it, and for some years afterward I was reluctant to seek even basic, preventive care. That said, in this case you seem to have been taken in by an anti-gay ruse.