Medicine and medical treatments have improved and advanced by leaps and bounds over the last 50 years or so, and we have cures for almost all diseases known to man. Of course, newer ones are emerging from the woodwork and researchers and scientists are working tirelessly to mitigate the suffering and extend the lives of people with terminal diseases like cancer and AIDS. But no matter how many cures are discovered, no matter how innovative medical technology becomes, there’s always one aspect that leaves the result of any test or treatment in doubt – the decision of the patient.
There was a time when doctors didn’t involve patients in the decision-making process at all – they just informed them that they needed so-and-so procedure done and that it would cost such-and-such amount. Only the most educated and mature of patients and/or their family asked questions and sought second opinions before going with what their doctor thought. Today though, the scenario is changing; with medical mistakes being made and malpractice suits more in vogue, patients are taking a more active role in their treatment.
Family doctors help a great deal in the decision-making process; when people need surgeries or further treatment for a disease or illness, they are the ones who tell them of the options open to them and ask them to see the concerned specialists. Decision-making involves a series of questions that the patient and his/her family must ask themselves and their doctors. If it involves a surgical procedure or further treatment, the questions normally asked are:
· Should it be done?
· When must I do it?
· Do I stand to lose if I choose not to do it immediately?
· What are my options if I choose not to do it?
· How much will it cost me?
· Is it covered by my insurance policy?
· Who is the best doctor (or which is the best hospital) to handle this procedure?
· How soon can I expect to recover?
· How soon can I expect to get back to work?
· Do I have to undergo physiotherapy after the procedure?
· What are the dos and don’ts to be followed before and after the procedure?
The questions may vary depending on the particular patient and the procedure involved. Some decisions are more difficult than others – like the legal ending of a life in the case of terminal diseases. Washington and Oregon are the only states that allow physician assisted suicide in the USA, and when you’re a terminally ill patient and have the option to take your own life rather than face the suffering ahead which will eventually lead to death, it’s not that easy to choose. On the one hand, there’s the fact that you want to end it all; on the other, you really don’t want to die.
Decisions are difficult, more so when they’re related to your body and may be the difference between life and death, health and illness. So take them wisely, without letting emotions rule you.