Children sent home from emergency rooms and dying at home. Spreading cancer misdiagnosed as muscle aches. Chronic fatigue syndrome or psychological problems. Important tests misread or not ordered. It is estimated that we will all face at least one misdiagnosis by a doctor in our lifetime that will have a serious impact on our lives.
How can we know when to argue, and how to argue with someone who’s supposed to know more than we do about our health, before it’s too late?
The Washington Post reported in 2013 that incorrect or delayed medical diagnosis is estimated to be responsible for as many deaths as breast cancer in the USA. With increased pressures on doctors and less personal relationships with their patients as super-clinics grow, these numbers are also on the increase.
Don’t give over all of your power – even when, or especially when, you’re sick. If you are unable engage an independently trusted person to take over for you.
A doctor is someone most have grown up at least thinking they know more than we do, and about medicine generally they probably do. But when it comes to our own health care or the health care of someone we know and love deeply, it’s better to think of your doctor as just one person on a team of experts in different areas. Look at appointments as opportunities to discuss issues of concern and build positive relationships.
Doctors are human too
Some people can be assertive generally but shrink in the face of ‘authority’ figures or experts. On issues of our health or the health of those we love it’s better to think of your doctor as just one person on your team. If they are not someone who will engage as a team member, it might be better to find a new doctor who can be.
Take notice of your gut feelings or things that don’t seem to add up – and speak up
Too many times we hear the ‘tragic series of events’ that lead to someone’s unnecessary suffering or death because they didn’t know how to speak up or change the course of events they were caught up in when it didn’t seem ‘right’.
You may not know the clinical terms, but you can describe what is happening for you, or for one you are caring for, and you can say no to treatments that you’re unsure about having until such time as you are sure.
Understand the condition
Some doctors don’t like their patients to research symptoms and treatments online, or discuss them with other people diagnosed with the same conditions, but sometimes raising these things with your doctor can improve the communication flow and your understanding of possible conditions and treatments.
When all else fails, start over
If a doctor is not listening, you can firmly express that you feel that you’re not being heard and you’d like to get a second opinion. If the doctor is listening you will feel that your concerns have been heard, not fobbed off.
If you do get a second opinion ensure you discuss why. What is it about the first opinion that didn’t seem right or helpful and make sure the second person starts afresh and doesn’t just follow the lead of the first practitioner.
One wrong interpretation of an Xray, or an incorrect result on a blood test could be informing every health professional along the way.
It’s heartbreaking after the event to wish we’d said something earlier, or done something differently.