Can you ask your doctor that?

The Social
Do you ever find yourself sitting in the doctor's office with a burning question you want answered, wondering if it's appropriate to ask? Well we took the pressure off our viewers to ask Dr. Sheila Wijayasinghe what's acceptable and what's crossing the line.

Is it ok to ask my doctor if he or she smokes?

It is understandable to want to ask this question (and others related to a healthy lifestyle), so it's ok to ask, but not every doctor will feel comfortable answering. Some doctors do not disclose their own personal health information with patients. 

Am I allowed to ask my doctor for their email address?

Email correspondence between doctors and their patients is becoming more common as it's convenient, allows for quick follow-ups and saves time. Not all doctors do this, but you can certainly ask if yours does. 

There are things to consider when emailing your doctor:
  • Privacy: For the most part, doctors will only email to check-in and help coordinate care, but most will not share private or sensitive health information to avoid this being shared with anyone but you. It's also important to consider that unless you have a confidential email, your health information may not be fully protected. Remember that with some work email, your workplace may have access to this personal information.
  • Timing of response: If you have a serious medical issue, or persistent symptoms that are worsening, you should call your doctor directly or go in for an in-person assessment so they can do a proper review. If your doctor is away, or email is not checked regularly, things can be missed so it's best to reserve its use for minor issues, not serious ones. 

Can I ask my doctor out on a date?

Never ask your doctor this! Doctors have strict regulations about this and are not allowed to date or have a personal relationship with their patients. It must remain professional.

Am I allowed to ask for information or a prescription for a family member?

This is not allowed unless your family member has given consent – usually signed – that would allow your doctor to speak to you about that family member. Your personal health information is private and should not be shared with anyone without your permission.

Is it appropriate to give my doctor gifts?

While it's very kind, gifts are not generally accepted. When patients' want to express gratitude, a simple thank you is all that is needed. If you would like to do more, consider writing a card.

Is it rude or insulting to tell my doctor I'd like to get a second opinion?

It is not rude or insulting to ask for a second opinion. While it may be an uncomfortable conversation, you have the right to ask. If this is a reasonable request, meaning that you have persistent symptoms, it was difficult to communicate with the specialist or you felt uncomfortable, this can be accommodated. The challenge can be for people who live in smaller cities – there may not be as many options for second opinions. If your doctor refuses to do a referral, ask why and what's being done regarding your concerns.

Can I refuse a treatment?

Patients are able to refuse treatment. For any treatment, from a simple blood test to deciding to do a test or take a medication, you must give your consent. For refusal of treatment to be valid, your decision must be voluntary and you must be appropriately informed about the benefits, risks, alternative treatments and what will happen if treatment doesn't happen. If you refuse a treatment based on this, your decision must be respected. 

Is it ok to tell my doctor that their receptionist is rude?

Yes! The front desk staff are the first point of contact with your doctor and with the healthcare system. It is very important that we hear this information about how people are treated because this influences your comfort to call and to come in and we need to address these issues. 


The information provided on the show is for general information purposes only. If you have a health problem, medical emergency, or a general health question, you should contact a physician or other qualified health care provider for consultation, diagnosis and/or treatment. Under no circumstances should you attempt self-diagnosis or treatment based on anything you have seen on the show.

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