Civil Disobedience Revisited, or Float Like a Butterfly, Sting Like a Bee

Posted on: October 11th, 2009 by

In a previous posting, Who’s Afraid of the Big Bad Administrator, I wrote about my refusal to tolerate rudeness from administrative personnel, as well as my refusal to sign a form that would potentially have me paying for a service that my insurance would cover.

Last week. Deja vu.

I had come to my hospital’s lab to drop off my daughter’s stool sample for a routine check. Because I had adopted her from China, the doctor wanted to rule out parasites. Pretty standard stuff. I had already gotten all the materials from the lab, which informed me that all I needed to do was drop off the sample, as I already had given the lab staff the doctor’s order for the test to be conducted.

So imagine my surprise when I sat at the registration desk, and the woman there said that I needed a referral from the doctor — not just an order — in order for labwork to be processed. And this woman, one of the hospital’s gatekeepers, was nasty. I don’t know what kind of power trip she was on, but she could’ve easily called the doctor’s office right downstairs and had a referral walked up, faxed in, and/or e-mailed, but instead, the registration clerk decided it would be more fun to give me a hard time.

She had no idea whom she was dealing with.

She told me that without a referral, I couldn’t drop off the sample. Then she tried to publicly humiliate me with a barrage of condescending statements and questions, such as “You should know better, that a doctor’s order isn’t good enough; you need a referral,” and “Why didn’t you get a referral?,” and the constant digs about my medical-system intelligence, which was the last time she dared say anything condescending to me.

When I told her that the lab said a doctor’s order was all I needed, she said, “Don’t you know that you need a referral for special procedures? Don’t you know how the medical system works?”

That was when I started to make her really sorry and did like Mohammed Ali said: “Float like a butterfly, sting like a bee.”

Except I stung like a wasp.

I immediately responded, “I had breast cancer, so I know full well how the medical system works! Don’t you tell me how the medical system works. The lab told me that all I needed was a doctor’s order and to drop off a sample, which I have with me today. When I was at the registration desk just a few days ago, no one told me to get a referral. If you want a referral, I suggest you get it yourself.”

She did apologize for her tone, but she still was arrogant when she said she needed me to sign a form that acknowledged I had no doctor’s referral.

That spelled trouble.

And sure enough, she handed me a form that looked familiar; it was the same form I discussed in Who’s Afraid of the Big Bad Administrator, the form that says because there is no referral, I would agree to pay whatever insurance doesn’t cover.

She probably thought I’d comply because all the verbiage on the form seemed intimidating. Maybe she thought I was stupid.

So I read the form through and then said, “I refuse to sign this. You can easily get a referral, so there’s no way I’d ever pay for labwork that is covered by my insurance.”

She said, “What?!,” followed by some remark meant to bully me into compliance: “This form just says you acknowledge you don’t have a referral.”

I countered with, “But that’s not what this form says. This form says that I will have to pay any costs if there is no referral. And I refuse to pay. In fact, rather than signing the form, I’m going to write on it an explanation of why this office has led me astray.”

She looked on with horror, as I wrote my composition on the form under the signature line. (As a writer, I love to write, and the massive amount of text on the form showed that passion for my craft!)

I explained how a doctor’s order was written for the labwork and that the lab said this order was all that was needed and the registration personnel never told me about a referral in the first place. I also wrote that if there was no referral, it was the fault of the lab staff for not telling me right away and that they have caused me a major inconvenience. I then signed that what I just wrote was true.

Oh, and I added the line, “I will not pay for services rendered because I had a doctor’s order for the lab tests and followed the proper protocol.”

The registration woman was shocked, stunned, horrified…

She started acting all nice to me and finally treated me with respect. She immediately called the doctor’s office and asked for a referral. If she had done this in the first place instead of being lazy and looking to abuse someone, I wouldn’t have felt the need to be so difficult.

When confronted with rude medical staff bent on making your visit miserable, there’s only one good option.

Civil disobedience.

Beth L. Gainer is a professional writer and has published numerous academic and magazine articles, as well as an essay on her breast cancer experience in the anthology Voices of Breast Cancer by LaChance Publishing. She writes about a potpourri of topics, including motherhood and her Chinese adoption experience at, and her cat Hemi blogs at Beth teaches writing and literature at Robert Morris University in the Chicago area. She has a guest posting on The World’s Strongest Librarian at

She can be contacted at and


This blog posting is an excerpt from my book in progress, Calling the Shots: Coaching Yourself Through the Medical System. Stay in loop for when it comes out. Subscribe to the blog in upper righthand corner.

One Response to Civil Disobedience Revisited, or Float Like a Butterfly, Sting Like a Bee

  1. Alicia D had this to say about that:

    You GO girl 😉

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