When you get healthcare, you ask your doctor questions. But there are some things you should never ask your doctor.
Some doctors still act as though they are God’s gift to humankind. That attitude has become less common in recent years, and that’s a good thing. More doctors are acknowledging to themselves and to others that doctors are people too. That means they have feelings, personalities, weaknesses, and strengths, just as you do. Most doctors do a lot of good, but they don’t have any magic powers.
During nearly 25 years of medical practice I’ve had countless conversations with patients, and developed many priceless relationships with them. I’ve been asked challenging questions, and sometimes had to offer bad news. I’ve rejoiced at the moment of new life and shared tears at times of loss and grief. I treasure the richness of what it means to be a doctor.
Working together with your doctor is the best way to maximize your health in many areas. But there are some things neither I nor any other doctor can do. Here are 6 things you should never ask your doctor:
1. To predict the future. Science and personal experience can provide a good idea of what may happen in many situations: how long someone may live with a certain illness, the statistical likelihood of pregnancy, or what recovery from an accident or surgery will involve. But we all know countless examples where things didn’t go as predicted: a patient outlives the doctors who made the diagnosis, a woman gets pregnant against all odds, or a patient dies when they “should have” recovered.
Instead, ask your doctor to talk about what might be typical for someone in your or your loved one’s condition. Recognize that personal determination, God’s intervention, and “life” can render your situation anything but typical!
2. To guarantee a certain outcome. Again, science and experience can project what a typical outcome of a surgery, medication, or other treatment may be. But it’s just that: typical. No doctor can guarantee that you will respond in a “typical” way.
Instead, ask your doctor to talk about the pros and cons, both the possible benefits and the possible negative outcomes. Ask about how likely the various outcomes may be, as well as what might happen if you do nothing. You’ll have to make a decision about treatment with less information than you probably wish for, and no guarantee.
3. To read your mind. Most doctors may be relatively smart when it comes to medical science, but most are not psychology or communication experts. They’re usually not that good at guessing what you’re worried about, how your condition is affecting your daily life, or whether you understand something they’ve tried to explain.
Instead, speak up. Make sure you’ve told your doctor briefly but completely everything that’s bothering you. If you’re afraid of something, such as “is this cancer?”, ASK! If you don’t understand something they say, ask again until you do.
4. To know everything about everything. Doctors are professionally required to do a certain amount of ongoing study to keep up with progressing science. And most do so pretty well. But even the most brilliant doctor has a finite mind and memory. And no one person can keep up with the volume of research coming out every year.
Instead, respect your doctor for their professional knowledge and experience, but be alert to research about your condition that they may not yet be aware of. And study your own body’s response to any treatment. Bring that information back to your doctor for discussion. It may or may not help in further managing your situation.
5. To give you something for nothing. Almost every doctor I know entered the profession with the desire to help people get well and make a positive difference in the world. But they can only do so with the resources they have available. They need an income too, to keep the lights on, to make their services available to you and other patients, and to feed their families.
Instead, play by the rules in every way you can. If you have health insurance, know the limitations of your policy. It’s fine to ask for extras – medication samples, filling out paperwork, etc – but don’t demand them. Remember: if your doctor can’t make a profit, they can’t stay in business to take care of you.
6. To take responsibility for your health. Your doctor can’t care more about your health than you do. Your own lifestyle actions will almost always make a much bigger impact on your future wellbeing than anything your doctor can do. Asking for a “quick fix” without being willing to do your part in living healthy is guaranteed to make your doctor frustrated and you miserable.
Instead, see your doctor as a partner in your healthcare. Care enough about your body, your loved ones, and your own life to learn what it takes to be healthy, and live accordingly. The level of your wellbeing in the future will be determined mostly by your decisions, determination, and actions today.
I wish you good health and long life – and a mutually productive relationship with your doctor.
Your Turn: Have you ever asked your doctor to do something they can’t do? I’d love to hear about it. Leave your comment below.
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