4 Steps to Help You With Your Medical Treatment Decision
Faced with tough choices about treatments or other aspects of our medical care or medical care for a loved one, it’s difficult to keep emotions out of the decision-making process. Upset about the diagnosis and fearful that we’ll make the wrong choice, the possibility of choosing the wrong option can seem overwhelming.
Unless you are in an emergency situation, it’s likely you can take some time to research options before you make your final decision. Even if your doctor is pressuring you for an immediate decision, ask whether there are any risks in taking some time to think it over.
While objectivity in this process may seem impossible, following these steps can help.
1. List All Your Treatment Options
Begin by making a list of all your options, which may include surgery, drugs, physical therapies, and even complementary or alternative therapies. Your doctor will have provided one or more possibilities. You might even consider asking other patients with the same diagnosis what their choices were.
2. Determine Pros and Cons for Each Treatment Option
Once you have a master list of all the possibilities, begin listing the pros and cons for each option. Include the duration of the treatment, how long recovery might take, the financial cost including insurance coverage, short and long-term side effects, possible outcomes, and the probability of success. Each of these considerations might end up as either a pro or con.
Include aspects that are less quantifiable, too, such as the amount of pain the treatment might cause, your fear level, how far from home you need to go for treatment, or which treatment your provider prefers for you. If you’re not sure whether an aspect is a pro or con, ask your doctor or other medical staff in her office for input. Get additional information from research, by talking to other patients about their experiences, or from your family.
Remember that “wait and see” may be an option for you: You’ll want to know what the ramifications are if you choose no immediate treatment. Similar to “wait and see” is the conscious decision not to be treated at all. The right to refuse medical treatment is one granted to most, but not all those who need medical treatment.
3. Narrow Down Your Possible Treatment Choices
With your list of pros and cons in front of you, narrow down your choices. For each final possibility, ask yourself: What is the worst thing that can happen if I undergo this treatment? And if the worst happens, can I live with it?
Eliminate the options that provide side effects or outcomes you find unacceptable. Then make a tentative decision. Share this preliminary decision with your doctor and your family. Help them understand your decision-making process, and see if they concur.
You may find not everyone, including your doctor, will agree with you. Be sure you’ve shared your pros and cons with them, and talk it through. Of course, the final decision is still yours to make.
4. Make Your Final Treatment Decision
Once you’ve made your decision, it’s important to follow through and adhere to that decision. If you run into problems and regret your choice or want to try something different, you can return to your medical professional and begin the decision-making process again.
Knowledge is power. The more knowledge you gain, the more likely you will feel confident about your choices. An empowered patient stays as objective as possible through the decision-making process, while relying on those professionals with the needed information in order to make the right decisions for herself.