A good friend with a chronic healthcare condition has over the last few years had a series of invasive procedures that have still not solved her problems. When I talk with her about seeking a second opinion at a time when she's not in crisis -- just to be sure -- I see a wall come up between us. "I like my doctor," she says. "I have to trust him."
Should she? Should you?' I say: It's not about trust.
Sure, when you're in the air at 30,000 feet, you want to trust the pilot. I know I do.
But there's usually just one commonly-accepted way to fly the plane. With most healthcare decisions these days, there are often a couple of different paths your treatment could take.
If you're faced with a healthcare decision of some significance and have the luxury of even a few days to consider options, you can do some homework, get educated about choices, and ask your doctor some questions. Based on what you learn, you may want to get a second or third opinion to be sure you have considered the best option given your situation.
It's not that your physician isn't trustworthy, smart, committed, experienced or caring.' You're not expected to know more than your doctor does about medicine, either. But you have a crucial role in deciding the path you'll take.
Trust means "total confidence in the integrity, ability and good character of another." When you're making a decision about your health, your physician -- no matter how well intentioned -- may not be aware of other' alternatives, or may have not seen all the research or be familiar with a new diagnostic approach or treatment. Your doctor may even have a blind spot, a preconceived notion that could go back to his or her experience years ago in medical school or residency.
It's not uncommon for two physicians to disagree with each other. Who is to say, if you have physician A, that physician B might not offer a better approach to your situation?
Which is why when it comes to getting critical advice about your health, know that physician recommendations can vary greatly. ' Find out what's available for you, learn the pros and cons and explore why physicians disagree about what is right for you.' Discover what evidence is available to suggest a particular approach is good, better or best.
Then, and only then, you can trust that you've done all you can. In consultation with your family and your doctor or doctors, you're far more ready to make a decision.