Generally speaking, a person goes to a physician because something is amiss with their physical body. We don't feel well so we go to doctors for help. Physicians "fix" what ails us. That is their job. We expect to receive some kind of treatment to make us better. Maybe we will get pills, maybe tests and procedures, or blood/lab work will be required but shortly the physician will tell us what is physically wrong with our bodies and what we need to do to return to our regular, non sick, life.
Unfortunately, our visit to the doctor doesn't always work out that way. Sometimes the report following all the tests and procedures is that it is going to be difficult to fix this one. We are going to try but the odds are not with us.
What do we do now becomes the big question. What odds are being talked about? Is it cure that we are aiming for, remission or just more time? What will the side effects of the treatment be vs. the length of time we are hoping to get from having the treatment? How am I going to feel with treatment, how am I going to feel without treatment? Is the down side worth trading good days for? All these questions are important to the decisions we will make. Yet most people don't ask the questions. Most people just look at their physician, or group of physicians, and blindly go in the direction they are pointed.
Blindly is the operative word here. Most of us don't ask the necessary questions to make informed choices. Why? Because doctors are supposed to care for us, be concerned about what is best for us, help us be the best we can be physically.
I think that once upon a time that may have been the case. We had a family physician who often birthed us into this world and was at our bedside when we died (or the physician’s son was there when we died). Remember Marcus Welby MD? Well those days, except maybe in very rural areas, are gone.
Now we have specialists, we have clinics with multiple physicians, we have emergency walk-in care centers and emergency rooms. And all these care centers mean less personal interactions, less knowing the patient. Healthcare has become more about knowing the disease, the illness, and less about the patient.
We, who receive this kind of healthcare, need to become proactive, to ask questions, do our own research. Google has opened a world of knowledge to us. Let's use it. With knowledge of our disease, the disease process, treatment options, side effects and success rates we can ask pertinent questions and take an active role in our partnership with physicians. We can choose treatments based on fact or choose no treatment, again based on research not emotions and fear. Knowledge reduces fear.
With increased knowledge we also want a second opinion. Not from a doctor recommended by the one who gave us the original diagnosis, not from one in the same clinic. We want a second opinion from a physician who is not associated with the same neighborhood or hospital as the first physician. This is not being disloyal. It is about making informed decisions. We price shop for big financial purchases. We quality shop for home renovation and purchasing cars. It doesn’t make sense that we would blindly accept one person's choice of treatment when our life depends on the decisions made. But we often do.
Connection and community are what we need most as we care for someone or are going through the final act of living. It's vital. Join my Facebook Group, End of Life Care and Bereavement. Whether you are involved in end of life care professionally or personally, come be connected, share your stories and get support from your community. And every question you ask, I will answer.
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