All Patients Are Liars

200_s“All patients are liars until proven otherwise.” Meredith Grey

Wow. Can you even imagine how my blood boiled when I heard that quote? Yes, I realize it was said by an imaginary character on a TV show, but it still made me a little crazy. It reminded me of all the things we hear about people with diabetes: non-compliant, non-adherent, lazy, don’t care, in denial, and so on. Oh boy does that stuff make my head spin.

The thing is, some people with diabetes do lie. They sometimes make up numbers, or give the wrong weight, or say they quit smoking (when they didn’t), or that they exercise regularly (when they don’t). What??

Actually, there may be a perfectly good reason for this.

I recommend stopping for a minute the next time we suspect someone isn’t telling the truth. I recommend stopping and thinking about why they might not tell the truth. What’s really going on? Were they shamed into hiding the truth? Are they afraid of how their provider will respond if they tell the truth? Do they feel it’s safer to give the “right” answers? Do they lack trust in the health care professionals they see?

I would suggest that what’s really going on is much more important than the “lie” itself. Most likely we can approach people in a way that establishes trust, which in turn gives people space to open up and communicate honestly. It can even improve care and outcomes.

As diabetes professionals, I hope we can listen to and accept anything a patient has to say.

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