The Doctor-Patient Relationship: Part Two

I recently wrote about the Doctor-Patient Relationship of the broken, outdated, patriarchal health care system of The Old Medicine.

Today, I’m going out on a limb to suggest a new kind of Doctor-Patient Relationship, the kind we will practice in The New Medicine. Here goes nothing.

It’s All About Collaboration

As doctor and patient, you and I are entering into a partnership. I will not give you orders because we will be collaborating, and your voice is as important as mine, if not more so. Because we will be partners, I feel it is important to clarify and agree upon what our relationship will entail, what you can expect of me, and what I expect of you.

I am here to support you, guide you, offer you tools, and support your process, but I will not “fix” you – for I don’t believe you are broken.

You Can Heal Yourself

I believe you already have within you the power to heal yourself. When we meet, I will hold up the mirror so you can see that you already have within you all that you need to have all that you want. This mirror will help you see what you need in order to optimize your wellness and happiness, so you can live the most joyous, vibrant, fulfilling, sexy, healthy life possible. Although I will support you in every way I can by educating you, giving you choices, answering your questions, and making recommendations, you are here to be the force behind your own healing. The body is made to self-diagnose and self-repair, and my job is to help you activate those self-healing superpowers. But you must do the heavy lifting yourself.

If you are not ready, willing, or able to heal yourself, I will be here to nurture and support you, but the process will be less powerful, with less powerful results.

I’m Not Blaming You

I’m not blaming you for being sick, depressed, or otherwise in need of healing. I am not suggesting that you brought this upon yourself (and if you did, I will treat you with compassion, not judgment.)

I’m also not suggesting that every illness or problem will be cured, either by your hands or by mine. Sometimes the Master Plan requires that illness – or even death – is inevitable. I believe that healing and curing are different, and that one can happen without the other. Although our goal will always be to achieve both, we will both understand that we must set goals, but release attachment to outcomes and surrender to Divine will.  In this very surrender, healing lies.

We Are Equals

Although I spent many years training to earn the right to be your doctor, I am not “better” than you, and as such, I will treat you as a cherished equal.  In order for our partnership to be successful, we must – absolutely must – respect each other. You will not put me on a pedestal, and I will not look down upon you.  I will speak to you when we are both dressed and only leave you naked in the brief moments when I need to examine you. I will respect your privacy, honor your modesty, and invite you to put your clothes back on as soon as I’ve done what I need to do.

I accept that my time is not more valuable than yours. As doctor and patient, we will respect each other’s time. I will not make you wait for your appointment, and you will not be late. We must be present, fully and completely, during our time together. This means we will both turn off cell phones, let go of distractions, and focus all of our energy on your health and healing.

I Trust Your Intuition

I will call upon my knowledge, experience, and resources to offer you recommendations for preventative care, diagnostic workups, and treatment plans, but I will also invite you to listen to the intuition of your healing inner wisdom, your body, and your soul. I will explain why I make the recommendations I do, but I will always respect your autonomy, without judgment. If you choose not to follow my advice, we will negotiate another plan that resonates with your intuition.  If I am unable to provide the care you need or desire, I will release you to follow your heart or find another provider without taking it personally.  You will understand if our current medical-legal climate makes me cover my ass sometimes, and you won’t take it personally. Ultimately, the choices for how we proceed will always be yours, whether I agree with the plan or not.

I will not take it personally if you question me.  I promise to respect you, guide you, and help you discover the healing power within you. In exchange, I ask that you follow through on any treatment plan we agree upon. If our treatment plan does not resonate with your body’s wisdom, or if you have financial constraints, please tell me so that we can modify our plan. Follow through is key. We must walk this path together in order to manifest the results I know we can achieve.

I Believe in You

I will believe in your capacity to heal from any illness, trauma, or loss. I will never view you as hopeless or broken, and I will hold sacred space for the whole, perfect, healed individual I know you to be, even in the midst of ill health. I will tell it to you straight so you understand science and statistics, but I will never tell you hope is gone, because miracles happen, and you have the power to enable them.

We Must Be Honest With Each Other

We have to be open and tell the truth, even if it is painful or uncomfortable. I will promise you confidentiality, and you must promise to tell me anything I need to know in order to provide the best medical care possible. We must trust that we are safe together, so we can explore things that may be tough to explore. We must open our hearts to the loving kindness and compassion that is a necessary part of any healing relationship.

I Am Only Human

As my patient, you will understand that I am a mere mortal, prone to mistakes, flaws, insecurities, ego, fatigue, tears, and distractions in my personal life.  You will not put me on a pedestal, and you will cut me some slack if I’m less than perfect, just as I will do with you. If I let you down, you will tell me gently, rather than bottling it up and storing it as resentment against me. In return, I will share with you how I feel about our relationship. If at any point, one of us cannot meet the other’s needs, we are free to dissolve this relationship at any time with loving kindness and compassion.

I’m Doing the Best I Can, And So Are You

As doctor and patient, we agree to accept that we’re both doing the best we can at any given time, and we won’t always get it right. We commit to open communication, mutual respect, a belief in the infinite capacity for whole health and healing, and a dedication to cherishing the process and viewing health issues as an opportunity to seek higher ground.

We acknowledge that, between you and me, anything is possible.

Are you on board? If so, sign here.

X marks the spot,

Your Doctor

One Doctor’s Response

I showed this agreement to a doctor I respect, who has a big, open heart and genuinely cares about his patients. I could see his chest rise and fall as he read it, and when he finished, he looked up at me with great big puppy eyes and said, “Lissa, I love it. But I don’t trust that I could do this. I’d want to. But could I? I’d hate to promise something I couldn’t follow through on.”

I asked if he wanted a copy so he could give it to his patients. He hesitated, furrowed his brow, looked down at the floor, tapped his pen on his knee, looked at me again before averting my eyes, and said, “No. Thank you, but no. I’m not ready yet, but maybe some day I will be.”

What Do You Think?

What if you printed this out and handed it to your doctor? Would you have the guts? If you’re a health care provider, how does this strike you? If you’re a patient, how do you think your doctor would respond if you handed her a copy of this? How would you respond if your doctor gave this to you? Tell me what you think of this Doctor-Patient Agreement of The New Medicine!

With faith in my profession,


Lissa Rankin, MD: Founder of OwningPink.commotivational speaker, and author of What’s Up Down There? Questions You’d Only Ask Your Gynecologist If She Was Your Best Friend and Encaustic Art: The Complete Guide To Creating Fine Art With Wax.

Learn more about Lissa Rankin here.



Vaiva G.
Vaiva G6 years ago

I enjoyed this article, but as many comments suggested a relationship with any doctor is a privilege... much less one that can be fostered enough to overcome engrained doctor-patient relationships this article is trying to repair..

Michele Wilkinson
Michele W7 years ago

Thank you

Eternal Gardener
Eternal Gardener7 years ago

I guess in every field there is always some room for improvement?

Tana M.
Tana D7 years ago

Oh how I wish you or doctors like you were in Orlando, FL. I'd be thrilled with if a doctor gave me that!

For Rachel Beckford, a patient should be investing a lot of time and energy into their health, after all it is their life. If a person does not invest in themselves, which is what you're doing when you sink a lot of time into your health, how can they expect to have a long, healthy life? A doctor can only figure out what is wrong with you if you are honest with both yourself and him/her. Not to mention, a doctor can prescribe something, whether meds or a healthier lifestyle with regular exercise, but she can't force you to actually follow it. You have to do that yourself. A doctor-patient relationship is nothing like the relationship you have with a car mechanic or carpenter. The first deals with you, the latter two deal with items entirely separate from your physical body. You tell the mechanic your car needs an oil change, he does it. Nothing else is needed on your part except to pay the bill. It doesn't work like that when it comes to a person's body. If the dr tells a patient that he has diabetes, it's then up to the patient to do what needs to be done to manage it. Only you can make you healthy, doctors are not miracle workers.

Kathleen Heidemann

Yes this is the United States not a country where the healthcare industry or the people living here for that matter really care deeply about health (money is what's important). Because I don't have insurance I don't have any relationship with a doctor because doctors treat those that pay upfront, on the spot like they don't want to see you in there office again. At most you are tolerated.. it's very strange. I'd like to just find a doctor that will take the time to even read through that 5 page form I so carefully filled out... at least glance at past/present illnesses and allergies to medications. Really at this point I've given up. I take care of myself and just hope I don't get really sick. I dream of moving somewhere more civilized.

Rachel Beckford
Rachel Beckford7 years ago

To be able to enjoy the kind of partner relationship you describe would, I fear, require an immense amount of work on the patients part. I know I'm not a partner with the person who fixes my car or the carpenter who builds items for my house so I'm not sure why I should have to invest a ton of time in preparation for a partnership with my doctor.

It would be very nice if in all our professional relationships we treated each other with due respect but I really don't see why the doctor/patient relationship should be any different than the other relationships I have in daily life.

If I handed this to my doctor I would be told to find another - my guess is the same would happen with the auto mechanic and the carpenter.

mike shalter
mike shalter7 years ago

go on to commit malpractice. I reported the most flagrant errors to the medical boards and authorities, but let the others slide. My advice to every patient is to obtain a second opinion in all cases involving the slighest doubt. Also, to demand that your physician explain to you what he or she plans and to do so in simple terms. Most people spend more time haggling over a used car sale than they do about their own heath. The difference is that you can always replace a clunker if you make a mistake, but if you err in taking care of yourself and pinning down the "salesman" (in this case, the MD) ...there ain't gonna be no other car for you ...EVER!

mike shalter
mike shalter7 years ago

I rather suspect that you are a compassionate physican, and, for that, I applaud you, but you're not a very scientific one. Your use of the terms "Master Plan", "Divine Will", Miracles", etc. leaves me, as a scientist, perplexed. As a physician, your task is to perform medical or surgical treatment...not spiritual, which can best be provided by the clergy. Your remark that your patients "should not put you on a pedestal" derives from what, exactly? Like 80% of the medical students to whom I taught comparative physiology, many of you physicians do, indeed, think that you are "gods in white coats". Any physician who denies that his or her mental powers are not superior to those of the vast majority of their patients is either deluded or hypocritical.
And you are right so to think insofar as your patients, in fact, are, on average, intellectually inferior. But, for heaven's sake, don't smear honey over the inequality in some mascarade of "patient-doctor pals cut from the same cloth." Question, Doctor.."How do you address your patients? By their first name? If so, have you given them permission to address you likewise? If not, you're putting yourself on a pedestal, like it or not. My having instructed hundreds of students who went on to obtain their MD degree, I can only say that I would be reluctant to allow more than 70% of them to treat me.... even for a bee sting! I've witnessed too many incompetent and rather stupid premedical students finally obtain MD degrees and

myra d.
myra d7 years ago

Trust and confidence in a busy office full of needy, truly ill people? You'd need to have a really small select practice to be able to fulfill your contract. It sounds great though. Good luck. I wish you were my physician.

Pamela Snook
Pamela Snook7 years ago

There is a lot of profit in medicine/health care today. And, it probably isn't the Doctor or the Nurse raking in that profit. After having a prolonged illness, the most devastating outcome outside of death is often bankruptcy. But, what is the answer? We sure have come a long way from the philosophy that every sick person simply needed education for their knowledge deficit to get well.