If You Don't Understand, Do Nothing
I'm very involved in the healthcare decisions of my family. I always ask lots of clarifying questions and want to make sure that I fully understand the recommendations, treatments, and procedures that anyone in my household will undergo. Thankfully, I have Alison as a great resource to answer any question I may have after an appointment. Yet, even though she is a qualified physician, I want to make sure that I understand everything.
Recently, Benedict was due to get some shots, and before his appointment, Alison and I discussed and agreed which shots he'd get. While we don't object to vaccinations, we do object to vaccinations derived from aborted fetuses and opt to use ethical alternatives, when available. At the appointment, the doctor suggested he was due for an additional shot that Alison and I hadn't discussed. I didn't understand the shot, and so, I chose to defer all of the shots to an appointment later in the month. The delay would give Alison and I time to discuss and agree on a course of action. We sat down, reviewed his records and the vaccination guidelines, cross checked with our list of ethical alternatives, and determined that the shot was ethical and that it was acceptable for Benedict to get it. Was it a minor detail? Yes. Was he going to get the vaccination regardless of the origin? Yes. Yet, I didn’t understand the recommendation at the appointment, so I chose to do nothing until I could ensure that we were carrying out our wishes.
I share this story to illustrate this point. In healthcare, indeed in all aspects of your life, only make decisions when you fully understand them. If you don't understand, do nothing, get more information, and then make a decision.
Assumptions can be deadly in medicine. When you go with someone to their appointment, you act as their patient advocate. While this title may seem trite, it's up to you to ensure that everyone in the room is completely clear on what was discussed and what medications and procedures will be carried out. This is especially important when the patient is sick, because their judgement could be impaired.
We tend to have an off-balance relationship with our medical care team. Since we’re ignorant about our particular illness and they deal with it daily, we tend to give them the benefit of the doubt. Never be afraid to ask questions. While some providers may get annoyed, medical research proves beyond a doubt that patients who are active in their treatment have better outcomes. You’re in control of your health and medical decisions which means that while your care team makes recommendations, you’re the one who ultimately says yes or no. Ask all of your questions, and when appropriate, get outside advice.
We do a lot of posturing unnecessarily in life. For whatever reason, we want to impress these total strangers by pretending like we're intelligent enough to receive, comprehend, and then act on all information given to us. Be wise enough to know what you don't know, and only make decisions when you're ready to make them. You'll be glad you did.