Don DeLillo on the doctor-patient relationship


I’m nearing the end of White Noise by Don DeLillo.  An excellent, sharp, funny book impressive for the strange comic tone it maintains throughout.  I’m impelled to offer the following short excerpt, a conversation between the main character and his doctor.  The book takes place, presumably, in the 1980s and the main character has been visiting his doctor with growing frequency:

“Here you are again, Mr. Gladney.  We see you so often these days.  How nice it is to find a patient who regards his status seriously.”
“What status?”
“His status as a patient.  People tend to forget they are patients.  Once they leave the doctor’s office or the hospital, they simply put it out of their minds.  But you are all permanent patients, like it or not.  I am the doctor, you are the patient.  Doctor doesn’t cease being doctor at close of day.  Neither should patient.  People expect doctor to go about things with the utmost seriousness, skill and experience.  But what about the patient?  How professional is he?”
He did not look up from the printout as he said these things in his meticulous singsong.
“I don’t think I like your potassium very much at all,” he went on.  “Look here.  A bracketed number with computerized stars.”
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