background image
patients--he convinced them that he was their only
chance of survival.
Most of the population of the world have more
than one option in selecting the physician who will be
responsible for their care. That is your right; nobody can
take that away from you--not even your
insurance company!
"Never underestimate the capacity of another
human being to have exactly the same
shortcomings you have." ~Leigh Steinberg
Don't we assume that--even
though we know we have moods and
defects--other people (especially those
with degrees, accolades and titles in
medical careers) will stay laser-focused
on professional perfectionism? Yet
we all have constant distractions
fuelled by perpetual lack of time,
issues ranging from bankruptcy
to "how am I going to get the kids
to fourteen places at once?", and
emotional crises such as divorce or
other loss. Distractions can make
us less cautious and more unaware,
and they are hard to control.
Doctors are human beings
just like you and me. The only
difference is that you and I don't
make decisions every day that affect
the life, health, and well-being of
others. We tend to believe that just
because doctors are involved in life-
and-death outcomes through their
patients, they are in some way godlike. They don't walk
two feet off of the ground; they can't snap their fingers
and change a prognosis. But they should realise that
their expertise (or lack of it) allows them to conduct
business every day that can have godlike consequences.
Doctors have other patients. Don't make the
mistake of believing that you are their only focus, that
they are concerned about only you, or that you are their
primary patient. As the patient and caregiver, the best
defence is a good offence. For preventable medical
errors to be preventable, they have to be recognised
and even anticipated. Everyone involved in patient care
should expect the unexpected. When we're caring for a
patient, it behooves us to set aside who has the degrees
and who doesn't. Once we realise that we're all focused
on the same goal, we can work together as a team to
advocate for patient care.
My cousin Debbie was diagnosed with
early stage, estrogen-based breast cancer.
As with all cancer patients, she wanted to
survive and reduce the risk of the cancer
ever coming back. The first oncologist
insisted that she needed a mastectomy,
and--in time--may have tried to talk
Debbie into a double mastectomy.
While mastectomies are
performed every day, any woman
who has ever had one will tell you
they are painful, and every patient
who is offered a reconstruction
should know that there are risks
and concerns associated with that
procedure as well.
Thankfully, Debbie went
for a second opinion. The
second oncologist felt that a
mastectomy was unnecessary; she
recommended an Oncotype test.
This genomic test analyzes the
activity of a group of genes that
can affect how a cancer is likely to
behave and respond to treatment. Debbie's test showed
that her early stage, estrogen-receptor positive breast
cancer had a very low probability of recurrence. Debbie
had a lumpectomy and no chemotherapy, and to date
has not had any problems with her cancer coming back.
Above all, primary physician and treatment
decisions are up to the patient, as long as they are
physically and mentally able to make them.