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>When To Say No To Your Doctor

“It may sound strange, but saying ‘no’ to your doctor may improve your health,” says Charles B Inlander, a consumer advocate and health-care consultant based in Fogelsville, PA. He is author of more than 20 books on consumer health issues, including Take This Book to the Hospital with You: A Consumer Guide to Surviving Your Hospital Stay published by St. Martins.

“Don’t get me wrong,” he adds, I’m not suggesting you become an obstinate, bullheaded patient just for the fun of it.” Instead, he says that saying ‘no’ is a tactic savvy health-care consumers use to get the information they need to make an informed medical or health decision.

What If Your doctor proposes an invasive procedure without
discussing alternatives?
Whether it’s major surgery or a risky treatment, such as chemotherapy, your doctor should explain all your options as well as the risks and possible benefits of the proposed procedure or treatment. He says that several years ago he helped an 80-year-old man whose doctor told him he ‘must’ have his cancerous prostate gland surgically removed. “I advised this man to say ‘no’ until the doctor disclosed the risks, benefits and alternatives to the operation. When he did so, the doctor said that at his patient’s age there were significant risks, the benefits would probably be minimal and that alternatives, such as injected medication, were available. The gentleman chose this alternative and is still alive today.”

What if Your Doctor Proposes A Medical Test Without Explaining Why?
Before agreeing to a medical test, you should be told why it needs to be done, what the doctor expects to find and what, if anything, can be done when the results are determined.

Although many tests are important, some studies suggest that up to half of all medical tests are unnecessary. Some verge on downright medical malpractice.

For example, he says, “I recently helped a family file a complaint with their state medical licensing board against a doctor who repeatedly ordered painful medical tests for their aunt who was terminally ill with a malignant brain tumor. When asked to stop, he insisted it was important to monitor her condition. Yet no matter what the tests found, there were no treatments that would make her better.”

What if Your Doctor Tries to Disuade You From Getting a Second Opinion?
Studies show that about 20 percent of all diagnostic second opinions (those attempting to verify what’s wrong with you) do not agree with the first opinion. The percentage is even higher for second opinions regarding treatment for a diagnosed condition. Any doctor who discourages a second opinion is not to be trusted. In fact, you may even want to get a third opinion if the doctors you’ve consulted disagree.