You’re the Boss

Imagine this: You take your car to your mechanic because it has started making a strange noise. He listens to your short description of the new noise. He starts the engine and listens to it very briefly. Then, without asking for your approval, he tells you the repairs he’s going to make, tells you how much they are going to cost, and when he will do them. He gives you a form with a lot of fine print to sign and asks you for the keys.

If any mechanic treated you this way, you would either set him straight, or you would immediately walk out of the shop and look for a mechanic who explained the repairs he thought your car needed and why they were needed, and then asked for your approval before scheduling and making them.

We expect our mechanics to be straightforward and respectful, and to get our approval before they start to work on our cars because 1) we’re the customer, 2) we’re paying for the service, and 3) we – not our mechanic – will be using and relying on our car after the repairs are made.

The way I see it, the same principles and reasoning should apply to our interactions with our doctor. We’re the customer. We’re paying the bill (or if not, our insurance is and we’re paying the co-pays), and we, not our doctor, are the ones who will be using and relying on our bodies after the treatment is done.

Unfortunately, not all doctors are willing to acknowledge the fact that medical decisions are ultimately up to the patient. If yours isn’t, you may want to consider finding another one. I’ve had to do that myself more than once, including a time when I sent a letter describing the kind of doctor I was looking for to all 37 gastroenterologists within a 25 mile radius of where I lived (only two responded, but the one I ultimately chose was great).

I want to say here that I strongly prefer having a collaborative rather than a contentious relationship with my doctor. Doctors have had lots of training, and I want them on my medical team. But since it’s my body – and my life – I need to be the team leader.

For more ideas for living well, sign up for my Biweekly Tips For How to Have a Better Life When You Have a Chronic Illness.

Tom Robinson helps people suffering with chronic illnesses stop struggling, and then he helps them find true happiness and joy – even when they don’t think there’s any to be found.

This post is Tom’s March entry in the Health Activist Blog Carnival. If you’re interested in participating too, you can read all about it here:
http://blog.wegohealth.com/2010/03/new-health-activist-blog-carnival.html

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2 Responses to “You’re the Boss”

  1. Susan says:

    Hear hear.

    Another thing you’ll never encounter with mechanics? Ambiguous pricing. If we asked how much a repair would cost and they said wouldn’t know ’til they were finished? We’d laugh at them and find someone else. But this happens in doctors’ offices all the time.

    Would love to see a follow-up post about how to find a decent doctor when (a) you’re sick and it’s difficult to do anything, and (b) you have a rare condition most doctors know nothing about.

  2. Tom Robinson says:

    Thank you for your comment, Susan.
    There are several websites where you can see how people have rated different doctors. Just do a Google search for doctor evaluations. Another method I sometimes suggest is to call several doctors and ask the person at the desk who answers the phone who they would recommend besides their doctor. People in the medical community talk to each other, so they usually know who the good and bad doctors are. I would also ask them who the best doctor was to treat a specific rare condition. If they didn’t know, I bet they would ask their doctor and call you back.

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