Please, tune TVs to neutral in doctors' waiting rooms

Published March 3, 2012

After numerous visits to doctors' offices and medical testing centers in the past couple of years, both for myself and with others, I have learned there are two extremely essential things one should take to these forays into the medical world.

List of medications? Yes, of course, that.

Insurance cards? Photo ID? Check.

A warm jacket? Good idea, since many of these places are as cold as meat lockers.

A supportive pal to help sooth your jitters? Great idea, especially if you're expecting bad news.

But, as much, if not more than all that, are these two indispensable objects: earplugs.

That's because all but two of the offices I've visited (or darted into to check this out) have waiting room television sets blaring Fox News and only Fox News, apparently around the clock. One office even has a big warning sign not to change the channel or lower the sound, so if I want to see that doctor, I must endure what I consider inaccurate, biased and incredibly annoying blather.

Indeed, to someone of my political persuasion, Fox News isn't news, it's an ongoing political advertisement, and it is as annoying as constant MSNBC would be to someone on the other end of the political spectrum.

I've politely asked the desk clerks at a few of these places to please change the channel to something more neutral, like the Weather Channel or perhaps Bay News 9 — or better still, turn it off altogether. All have refused or ignored my request.

Last week, as I waited for a medical test and the Fox News personality began a virulent (and inaccurate) attack on President Barack Obama, another patient got up and turned down the sound. Within moments, someone with a remote control turned it back up, louder than ever.

I'm all for everyone having a favorite television channel, whether it's Speed, HGTV or Turner Classic Movies (or even Fox News), but I think for a medical office TV, having a propaganda channel blaring at a captive audience is unfair and inappropriate, whether it's my favorite propagandists or someone else's.

If there must be a TV, I suggest it be like that of my own wonderful doctor, whose waiting room screen offers diet and exercise advice and quizzes and the sound is low enough to ignore if I prefer to read a book or one of the health magazines he has for all patients. My equally terrific dentist has a homelike waiting room that is quiet and reassuring, with good reading materials and a coffee machine that makes whatever kind of coffee I like that day.

I believe that if a medical office wants to make its waiting room into a satellite headquarters for a particular political party or candidate, it should offer brochures, lapel buttons and bumper stickers that don't make sound. That way, people can either pick up the campaign material or ignore it.

But to subject patients who are often already nervous about an upcoming diagnosis or procedure to a braying voice that only increases stress is cruel and unusual punishment and has no place in a facility that is supposed to be for healing.