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Miss Manners: On dispensing medical advice without a license

By Judith Martin, Nicholas Ivor Martin and Jacobina Martin Andrews McMeel Syndication

DEAR MISS MANNERS: Often, when I’m with acquaintances who have no medical expertise, I find that one person will offer health advice to another with a complaint or recent diagnosis. This advice is inappropriate at best, potentially harmful at worst. For example, “You should take three ibuprofen every four hours; that’s what the doctor told my husband for his knee” – the husband in question being a 250-pound man, while the advice is for a 110-pound woman with not-yet-diagnosed shoulder pain.

I don’t want to be rude and counter the person’s advice, nor do I want to seem to be privately advising the recipient to ignore the advice. What’s an appropriate comeback for inappropriate medical advice?

GENTLE READER: You do not mention your profession, but, given your objection to acquaintances practicing medicine without a license, it seems reasonable to Miss Manners to infer that you have relevant professional expertise.

If that is the case, then you will also want to avoid saying anything that puts you to work (“OK, then what is your diagnosis?”).

If you are not a doctor, you will have to be even more circumspect if you wish to avoid being accused of hypocrisy. In all cases, the correct response is, “You might want to talk to your doctor about that.”

DEAR MISS MANNERS: How available does one need to be to everyone else, given that cellphones are with us almost constantly?

I’m the type of person who isn’t attached to my phone all the time; I keep the volume on low, and check it with some frequency throughout the day. My husband is seldom without his cellphone. He even has a watch that is connected to it, so he can get updates in real time on the off chance he isn’t actively looking at his phone.

I know this is becoming the norm, and part of me resents the constant connectedness of this new age. Once, when my husband couldn’t reach me for 15 minutes, I received three texts and two phone calls. When I did call him back at the end of that 15 minutes (I had been changing over the laundry and was out of hearing range from my phone), I got a tongue-lashing.

He says I need to be connected to it all the time, especially once we have children. I think he is being impatient and that he needs to take a chill pill.

GENTLE READER: There are times when your employer, friends or family can reasonably expect you to respond immediately. These include when your daughter is about to give birth, or when your patients (were you a doctor) are in need of immediate medical attention.

Employers term this being “on call,” a phrase Miss Manners finds particularly useful in its implication that the rest of the time, you are free to do your laundry or read a book. Expecting people to be perpetually on call is neither polite nor sensible.

In your own situation, Miss Manners believes that the arrival of said children will give your husband some perspective on what it feels like to have someone constantly tugging at his sleeve, demanding his attention.

Please send your questions to Miss Manners at her website, www.missmanners.com.

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