Getting Doctors to Write Notes On Your Behalf

Posted on: July 23rd, 2010 by


The doctor’s note.

It seems everyone needs at least one at some point, whether it is a letter telling an insurance company that you need to see an out-of-network specialist, informing an employer to make reasonable accommodations for you so you can work in spite of your medical condition, to prove you are in good health and able to work or adopt a child, and the list goes on and on.

You can have doctors write them, you can dictate to doctors what you want the letters to say, or you can ghost write them.

I should know. I’ve done all three.

Yes, you can be savvy. And resourceful. And clever.

All you need is an ethical, excellent doctor who supports you, and will do anything within reason for you. There is a caveat, though: the doctor and you should be honest and ethical about your condition/circumstances. Ethical, excellent doctors do exist. You just need to find them. Or perhaps you’re lucky enough that you already have one or more.

This posting is NOT about deceiving others so you can benefit. Getting a doctor to write a note saying it’s medically necessary to get a procedure when it really is not medically necessary is not my idea of ethical advocacy. Sure, I would like my skin under my chin to be a bit less droopy, but getting a doctor to write a note that it’s medically necessary for me to get plastic surgery would be unethical. (Besides, I love my physical imperfections.)

This posting is about a letter telling the truth in a way that will best advocate for you.

For example, many years ago, as a result of intense keyboarding, I developed carpal tunnel syndrome. My left hand was in agony and swelled up like a watermelon. OK, more like a cantaloupe. I knew I could still work at the company, but the intense keyboarding had to stop for my own health. I saw a hand surgeon, who agreed. So I went out of my comfort zone and asked him if he would support me and write a letter saying that I needed to make a lateral move to a position that required less keyboarding, and he said “yes”! I dictated the letter to him, and I got my wish. My hand healed, as a result. The letter was honest; all the doctor needed was for me to tell him what I needed the letter to say.

For example, when I was fighting to get my double mastectomy with reconstruction, I needed lots of letters telling other doctors and the insurance company that I needed this procedure and I needed certain doctors to perform it. My oncologist and primary care physician completely believed I did need this surgery, as did I. They wrote many letters on my behalf, some of which I contributed to. The letters were honest; it turns out that a biopsy taken during the surgery revealed that I had many precancerous cells and would’ve likely had a breast cancer recurrence, indeed, if I didn’t have the surgery.

In many other instances, I ghost wrote letters for my doctors. If you can basically put a sentence together and your doctor is great, ask him or her whether you can write the letter and have him/her read and sign it if he/she agrees with it.

This last point sounds super gutsy, but in reality, with a great doctor, it’s relatively simple. Doctors have professional e-mail addresses, and you can e-mail the letter, and he/she can read it over for accuracy and make whatever changes are needed. Then your doctor prints it out on letterhead, signs it, and sends it to you or the party who is supposed to receive it.

This is a win-win scenario, as you get to control most of the letter’s contents, and you’ve just made life easy for the doctor, who is generally super busy and wants less paperwork.

You really don’t know how much a doctor is willing to advocate for you in writing unless you ask.

Just ask.

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 can be contacted at and Photobucket

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.

2 Responses to Getting Doctors to Write Notes On Your Behalf

  1. Judy had this to say about that:

    Another great post, Beth.

    I know doctors are busy, so much so that some doctors charge their patients a fee if they have to fill out company-provided forms, such as FMLA paperwork, Short Term Disability paperwork, etc.

    Perhaps using your methods can save patients from incurring such charges.

    Thanks again!

  2. Beth L. Gainer had this to say about that:

    Thanks for your input, Judy! It’s ridiculous for doctors to charge a fee for FMLA paperwork, etc.

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