750,000 People Die Each Year From Unnecessary Medical Care

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. Sometime ago President Obama, before passing healthcare reform, addressed the American Medical Association and 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 to do the right thing.

Herein lies the problem. The physician is morally bound to respect patient autonomy (that is, self determination). She is obliged to enhance, empower, and enrich the patients capacity to be autonomous. Unfortunately, many physicians have not engaged patterns with honest conversations about their care, instead only informing them about treatment options that enrich doctors’ bank accounts. Leaving the medical decision-making totally in the hands of a morally-challenged physician leaves us vulnerable to unnecessary, risky care.

We have the most expensive, least effective healthcare system in the industrialized world. While we receive unnecessary care to the tune of $700 billion a year, we seldom receive the care we need. The number of people exposed to unnecessary hospitalizations 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 this 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).

If you believe that high cost results in better care you would be wrong. Only half of patients with diabetes get the appropriate care and just 40 percent with heart disease and 30 percent with asthma get the right care,

To protect yourself from these risks, you must be involved in your healthcare (autonomous decision making). You must ask your doctor the right questions to get the information you need to make an autonomous decision. Questions such as, what treatment option would you choose?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 find another doctor and, by all means, do not agree to any elective procedure without getting a second opinion.


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