When I was training to be an OB/GYN, I was taught that the doctor-patient relationship was supposed to have certain boundaries. To be a good doctor, I was expected to be:

  • Perfectly poised on an ivory “doctor” pedestal
  • Always in control
  • Immune to my emotions
  • Always professional
  • Able to single-handedly fix anything that comes my way

No wonder I wound up disappointing my patients and winding up sick and depleted by the time I was 33!

After a lot of personal and professional self-examination, I wound up writing a new type of doctor-patient agreement that I asked my patients to sign. Here it is.

A Sacred Doctor- Patient Agreement

As doctor and patient, you and I are entering into a partnership. 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. Instead, I will consult, educate, and participate in any diagnostic or treatment planning with you, while supporting the natural self-repair mechanisms of your body, which have been scientifically proven to exist. I will be supporting not just the health of your body, but the health of your mind. If you are not ready, willing, or able to fully participate in your physical, emotional, and spiritual healing process, I will be here to nurture and support you without judgment, but we both acknowledge that your health outcome may not be fully optimized. I can only support you as much as you support yourself.

Mutual Respect

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. Although I may know anatomy better than some of my patients, I trust that you know your body better than I do. Your body is YOUR business, and I am merely here to support what is essentially your responsibility.

In order for our partnership to be successful, we must respect each other. You will not put me on a pedestal, and I will never look down upon you.  I will speak to you when we are both dressed and only leave you undressed 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. Barring extreme emergencies, 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 make our best efforts to remove 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, I will respect that and we will negotiate another plan that resonates with your intuition, but I expect you to explain to me that you do not plan to comply with my treatment recommendations.  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.  Conversely, you will understand if our current medical-legal climate makes me ask you to sign a waiver sometimes, especially if you refuse treatment for something potentially life-threatening, and you won’t take it personally. Ultimately, your autonomy trumps my personal treatment preferences.

However, if we both agree to a treatment plan, I ask that you comply with that plan or explain to me why you can’t. If you have financial constraints, please tell me so that we can modify our plan. If you are having issues with limiting beliefs, self-sabotaging behaviors, or issues of willpower, I can help support you, but only if I know what you’re dealing with. Follow through is key if we expect optimal outcomes.

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.

We Are 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.  I will strive to always be in integrity and to never betray your trust. I will also strive to ensure that you are never a victim of medical negligence. But you must understand that even the best medicine sometimes results in negative outcomes that are nobody’s fault, and if I’m always afraid that you might sue me, I may practice defensive medicine, ordering too many tests and recommending too much treatment, which may ultimately end up causing more harm than good.

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.

Your signature___________________________________________________________

The Body Knows How To Heal Itself Unknown

In my new book Mind Over Medicine: Scientific Proof That You Can Heal Yourself , I include a whole chapter on the scientific proof that finding the right doctor is essential to your health outcome. The body has natural self-repair mechanisms that can fix broken proteins, kill cancer cells, fight off infection, heal wounds, and retard aging, but to say you can heal yourself is kind of a misnomer. It would be more accurate to say that your body can heal itself, but only with the nurturing care and support of the right healer. When we feel loved and tended by those who care for us, our nervous systems respond by shutting off the outflow of poisonous stress hormones and bathing every cell in the body with healing hormones like oxytocin, dopamine, endorphins, and nitric oxide. And when this happens, the body’s natural self-repair mechanisms are strengthened.

For 8 tips on how to find the perfect health care provider to meet your individual needs, and to learn the 6 Steps To Healing Yourself that will help you participate in your own health care, I hope you’ll read Mind Over Medicine (which you can order here). A free chapter of the book is available for download here.

Would You Sign This Doctor-Patient Contract?

How would you feel if your health care provider agreed to such terms? Would you be willing to participate in your health in this way and have this kind of relationship with your doctor? If not, what is at the root of your resistance? Share your thoughts in the comments below.

With faith in your healing journey,

Lissa Rankin, MD

Unknown-1

21 Comments

  1. I was first introduced to you through The Daily Love website and began reading your blogs! Now as a student of Aviva’s, I find a new path to your wisdom as well. When the universe puts me square in front of a new teacher, I am in! Your new book will undoubtedly be a beautiful tool for us as healers. Thank you for this life-changing approach to the traditional medical environment! Welcome to the new “normal”……………..

  2. This contract makes me want to stand and CHEER!!! I welcome the day when all caregivers and patients can stand in such authenticity and power….for then the whole system will have changed to *true* health ♥

  3. Love it! I’m currently in Acupuncture school, and this is how we’re taught to relate with our patients. I will definitely be writing up a contract like this for my patients. Thanks for sharing!

  4. I wonder if there are doctors willing to help patients who have rare disorders. I have seen many who treat my condition as general giving me hope and then diminishing it when their hormone treatment doesnt work. Do you think someone with normal ovaries and healthy system but with a uterus the size of a baby has hope?

  5. How wonderful! When I read this I realize that it has been a very long time since I believed that a doctor would actually support me!

  6. Thank you Aviva and Lissa for this sharing. As a herbal therapist, I was trained that way too but still feel sometimes pieces of me that go on that authority-based relationship path because of society conditioning and a school teacher career behind me. I am grateful to my teachers that always bring me back to the heart of my relationship with my clients: compassion. I would definitely sign that contract and I hope that someday I will be confident enough to trust that my clients would sign it too for I share this vision.

  7. Thank you all so much for the words of support and hope for our broken health care system.

    It’s going to take a village of empowered patients and conscious health care providers to fix the damage, but I have hope and am so happy to know you’re all in my village.

    Much love and gratitude
    Lissa

  8. Well said!
    Thank you for writing this, I look forward to reading your book.
    I really appreciate the work you are doing, and Aviva is doing to better our system. Thank you!

  9. I LOVE this agreement, Thank you Lissa for writing it, thank you Aviva for sharing!
    My clinical herbalist training program is deeply rooted in this philosophy, It’s a great reminder I think I’m gonna print it out and read it before my consultations.

    I get really excited when I see MD’s standing up for a more humane approach it gives me sooo much hope that change is in the air.

    Looking forward to reading you book ( I received 3 emails this morning a colleague, Kris Carr and Aviva, I get the hint ). Best to you Lissa with hopes that you’ve created a best seller!!

  10. Hi,
    I am a doctor (MD) with a special interest in womens health (not specialist) and I will be starting my own practice soon….it is very interesting and wonderful to read your insights here. I am interested that you say “I am always scared you may sue me” and “I practice defensive medicine.” because medical insurance here is so huge as soon as you do anything obstetric (which is a field I love). SO I am grappling with my practical place in this too…still I pray I never act my medicine out of defence…..and can replace the fear with love and there fore trust. I would like to hear your thoughts on this – as I have read your conclusions…..
    thanks!

    • Dear Guari,
      Such an important conversation. When I ran this agreement by some in the group of doctors I’m teaching at the Whole Health Medicine Institute (http://wholehealthmedicineinstitute.com), many were afraid to agree to such terms unless the issue of medical malpractice was addressed.

      I know this was an issue for me when a patient with endometrial cancer chose to decline treatment from her oncologist but still wanted to see me for care. My malpractice carrier made me ask her to sign this horrible waiver. I felt so awful. Even though I trusted her, my insurance carrier didn’t, and they were worried that if she died, her family would sue me for supporting her right to refuse treatment.

      The system is so broken that I think we have to address it so everyone involved feels as safe as possible, and we can still cross our “t’s” and dot our “i’s.” I pray it will change…

      Much love to you
      Lissa

  11. Thank you. I am a registered nurse for 22 years and a student of herbalism. For far too long, this is a missing piece in health care. Often patients come to us to be fixed, much like we take our cars in for repair. It’s time to educate and give power back to people to heal themselves while we provide support that our training offers. I was trained this way, but rarely see it in practice. Your contract is a wonderful foundation for a healing partnership.

  12. I wish there were 10000 of you!!!
    Thank you for writing this, it is perfect and I would go out of my way to find a physician like you. Bravo!

  13. This contract resonates with an excellent balance of mutual respect. Thank you for writing it and sharing it as well. I recently made a firm decision that I would no longer be a patient without this balance. The timing of your book is perfect!

  14. It’s truly inspiring!!! I am so grateful you dug deep and came out with this. Your patients are blessed and I know that you making a difference in the medical community this way will change the medical field as a whole. Thanks for being generous, brave and a contribution!!!

  15. Thank you so much for sharing your wise words. I feel as though my relationship with my family practitioner approaches what you are advocating, and for that I feel grateful, as she is a wonderful doctor. I would absolutely sign your contract and look forward to the day that the relationship between doctor and patient flows in this mutually supportive way.

  16. I would absolutely sign an agreement like yours! I welcome the day when agreements/contracts such as this are the standard in health care! Thank you both (Lissa and Aviva) for sharing a new paradigm.

  17. Shouldn’t there be a line for the doctor to sign as well? That absence negates a lot of the text previous to the signature line.

    I am experiencing doctors who are employees first. Employees who answer to administrators. Administrators who make policies that are awful for patients.

    Ideals, goals, promises and hopes fly out the window with administrative policies are not supportive.

    I live in small town where we have no choice. Privacy is a faint hope, doctors come and leave in a few months or maybe a year if we’re lucky. I never know from one day to the next if I’ll have access to medical care, prescriptions, insurance or medical services, let alone when I need them!

    This article is nice, but it is so far removed from any reality I experience as a patient in Canada that I’m finding it laughably idealistic.

    I ended up reading this in my search to find a way to trust doctors with my confidential medical information after too many privacy breaches. Any ideas?

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

clear formPost comment