Doctor: What Would You Do?

Dr. Marcia Angell, a senior lecturer at Harvard, gives us all good advice in the column she wrote this week in the Boston Globe called Longing for Days the Doctor Still Advised.

In her column, she follows the “history” of the role of patient as participant in decision-making about his/her own health care. In effect, the movement since the 1970s to make sure patients participate in their own decision-making.

Her most important point, however, is that just because we patients should be making these decisions doesn’t mean we shouldn’t be asking doctors what their best advice would be. Doctors, afterall, have much more knowledge than we do. She suggests we ask the doctor what he would do if he were in our shoes. (Alternatively, what s/he would do if it were his/her loved one that needed a difficult decision.)

For the most part, I think it’s good advice — as long as we trust that doctor, and as long as we know the doctor can’t profit further from the advice s/he gives. In my case, the doctor’s “best advice” was to undergo chemo. Never mind that I didn’t really have cancer. And oh, by the way, he could make plenty of money from me if I did get chemo.

So, Dr. Angell — I agree with you wholeheartedly — as long as we have a good partnering and trusting relationship with the doctor who can advise us.

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Trisha Torrey
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