I have been faced with a variety of health problems recently and have had
a difference of opinion with my doctor about how to proceed. I want to feel in
charge of what's being done to my body. Am I wrong for speaking up when I
disagree with my doctor?
Good for you for speaking up and taking charge! The ideal relationship
between doctor and patient should be one of collaboration, not mindless
obedience. We do indeed go to a medical doctor for his/her expertise but if
we end up dealing with a physician who is unwilling to explain and
especially to listen, then it may be time to change doctors.
In my own battles with chronic asthma, I have had to learn several
- 1. No doctor can help me if I act irresponsibly with regard to dealing with
- 2. If I take responsibility for my health rather than shift that
responsibility onto the doctor, then overall I tend to be more healthy;
- 3. I have a right to ask my questions and have them answered in language I
In light of those learnings, I have tried to do the following:
- 1. learn as much as I can about my condition;
- 2. go to my doctor's appointments with questions prepared and written down;
- 3. ask for copies of test results such as pulmonary functions tests.
It is not just the doctors who are at fault with the imbalance of power
in health care. We consumers have tended to shift responsibility onto the
doctors and have shirked our part of it. If we approach a doctor as a person
with expertise who does not have all the answers and who is a human being
subject to fatigue and "bad hair days" just like us, then the possibility of
collaboration increases. If we communicate with that doctor assertively but
not aggressively, that also helps immensely. If we still end up dealing
with a person who expects us to follow his/her dictates without question,
then it's time to find another doctor.
You might find some encouragement with the works of Bernie Siegel.
Maureen Potts' The Three-edged Sword is also an excellent first-hand account
of one woman's journey to personal responsibility.
Richard B. Patterson is a clinical psychologist
in private practice in El Paso, TX. He is the author of three books on psychology