Giovanni jerked off at his mother's. It went nicely, so he reached for the phone to report it.

Ordinarily, a man's midnight masturbation on a hill near Perugia would not seem too special. You might not rush to put it on the evening news. In this case, however, it seemed to Giovanni that he should report it immediately. That's because his orgasm was a first: The first after his laparoscopic radical prostatectomy, an operation for treating prostate cancer and sometimes chronic prostatitis. Prostate operations can interfere with erections, but not orgasm, which most men find hard to believe. So they test to be sure we're not lying.

And you might think that his surgeon would embrace Giovanni's orgasmic eruption. And you'd be right: Surgeons love detail. But there's a nuance: Sometimes surgeons want to finish their dinner first. Sometimes they give a patient crossing the Atlantic their personal cell phone number mainly for emotional reassurance, not for mealtime entertainment.

The question of timing and discretion gains emphasis because everybody's talking with everybody about everything at every moment. And with emails zipping into the device on our belt, there are essentially no physical barriers to instant communication from anyone. So patients send emails to doctors. Doctors search patients on Google. It's a communications free-for-all.

Is this good? Certainly there is that opinion. A quarter of Europeans recently studied expected that in the near future they would be able to schedule an appointment online. Among those using the Internet for health-related purposes, on average more than 4 in 10 people considered the provision of these electronic communication an important service when choosing a new doctor.

Why, then, are so many doctors reluctant to hand out their cell phone numbers and private emails to their patients? There are many reasons cited, including concerns about accidentally publicizing private health information, providing ammunition for lawsuits, and simply having no time at all for one's self. Some seem well founded, others merely reflexive.

That's too bad because physician-patient communication can bring health value. For example, the use of e-mail was associated with an improvement of specific health measures among Kaiser Permante patients. Direct communication can actually deliver efficiency and better health. Pretty good.

Patients can gain immensely from direct and efficient communication with their doctors. But doctors have only so many hours in their day. This means that one impulsive jerk-off can spoil it for everyone.

What does that mean for you? It means that if you have an orgasm after surgery, the report can wait until morning.

Copyright © 2010 Arnon Krongrad, MD

About the Author

Arnon Krongrad M.D.

Arnon Krongrad, M.D., specializes in surgery for prostate cancer and chronic prostatitis.

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