Doctor-Patient Etiquette: What To Do When Your Doctor Passes Away

All people die. That is simply a fact of life. However, it can still be difficult when the deceased is someone you know, like your primary care physician. Your doctor has probably been seeing you through most of your illnesses and injuries for a large chunk of your life, and it can leave quite a big hole when he or she passes away. What do you do? What is appropriate for doctor-patient relationships in this situation? 

Send Condolences

Obviously, most doctors and their families prefer to maintain a professional distance from their patients. Just imagine if every last patient your doctor ever treated showed up to the wake! It would not only be too crowded for anyone to pay their respects, but it would also overwhelm the grieving family. You can send your condolences in a card, or send flowers, too. In this digital age, you can even sign a digital guest book, if the family set one up online.

Grieve If You Need To

Besides your intimate partners, no other person sees you in a vulnerable state except your doctor. In the years you have seen him/her, you may have felt that you knew each other well. That may bring up feelings of grief regarding his/her passing. As your doctor would likely tell you (if he/she were still here), it is okay to grieve when you need to, regardless of how close you were to the deceased.

Find a New Primary Care Physician

It may seem awkward to look for other primary care physicians at this juncture, but you need to do so. If you do not want to see another doctor in the same facility as your previous doctor, you can look elsewhere. You can request copies of your medical records and have them transferred, too. However, if you find another doctor within your same health plan network, the new doctor can already access your records. 

Continue on with Life

Your continued health and well-being are what your old doctor would have wanted. That may sound a little cliche, but not when you consider the fact that that is what all doctors want for their patients. If you do not find a new doctor within a month or two of the death of your old doctor, you are putting yourself at risk for health problems and emergency situations. Then your health care plan will just assign someone to you instead. It is better to make the choice on your own, even though it seems hard.

Contact a medical clinic like Rural Health Services Consortium Inc. for more information and assistance.