Get the Right Care-Force Your Doctor To Behave Ethically

Acting for the good of the patient is the most ancient and universally acknowledged principal of medical ethics (E.D. Pellegrino. The Philosophy of Medicine. University of Notre Dame Press, 2008). The good that patients seek is restoration of health and a return to his/her definition of way of life. The  physician promises to help with the special knowledge at her disposal. When President Obama addressed the American Medical Association yesterday to about  healthcare reform he admitted to the physicians in attendance that he and his family (as well as the rest of us) do what you tell us to do-that we trust you!  Herein lies the problem. The physician is morally bound to respect patient autonomy (that is, self determination) and the benevolently paternalistic physician is acting immorally by violating the principal of autonomy.  She is obliged to enhance, empower, and enrich the patients capacity to be autonomous. Unfortunately, many physicians have used their power of knowledge for financial gains at the expense of what’s good for the patient. To leave the medical decision-making totally in the hands of a morally-challenged physician leaves us vulnerable to unnecessary, risky care.

It is clear that we receive unnecessary care to the tune of $700 billion a year. The number of unnecessary medical and surgical procedures performed annually is 7.5 million. The number of people exposed to unnecessary hospitalization annually is 8.9 million. A recent statistical analysis has been estimated that unnecessary medical care results in 750,000 deaths a year, leading the authors of the study to conclude that the American healthcare system is the leading cause of injury and death in the U.S.!! (Gary Null PhD, Caroly Dean MD ND, Martin Feldman MD, Debora Rasio MD and Dorothy Smith PhD , Death By Medicine, Nutrition Institute of America, October 2003).

To protect yourself from these risks, you must be involved in your healthcare (autonomous decision making). Ask your doctor questions such to get the information you need to make an autonomous decision. Questions such as, what else could my diagnosis be? what treatments are recommended? what are the risks with the recommended treatments? are there other treatment options that are less risky or invasive? what benefits should I expect from the recommended treatment? These questions make the doctor focus on you and give you the information you need to make an informed decision. Participating in your  healthcare helps you get the right care. If you are not satisfied with your doctor’s answers get another doctor and, by all means, do not agree to any elective procedure without getting a second opinion.

President Obama, if we participate in our healthcare and cut costs tremendously while receiving safe, quality healthcare. Just doing whatever the doctor says is costly and dangerous and it only perpetuates the cycle of greed.


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