How to Disagree with Your Doctor - DrTummy.com
How to Disagree With Your Doctor
A doctor-patient relationship should be one of trust, one in which you feel confident that your doctor has your best interests in mind. If you’re questioning some treatments or recommendations that your doctor is making, you should feel comfortable bringing up your concerns with them. Often, the disagreement will be resolved once both parties have more information.
Examples of Respectful Disagreements
Making Sure Your Doctor Hears Your Concerns
Bring an advocate with you to appointments.If you’re in doubt that you and your doctor are agreeing on treatments or communicating well in general, try bringing a support person with you. This can be a relative or trusted friend. Talk to this person about your condition ahead of time, and tell them why you’re having doubts about the treatments or suggestions your doctor is making.
- Let your support person know that you’d like them to ask the doctor questions too, if they have any during the appointment.
- Tell this person it’s alright with you if they also take notes about things your doctor says.
Ask about benefits vs.risks for specific treatments. Most procedures and treatments come with both benefits and risks. Ask your doctor, “How will this help me the most?” and after they answer you can ask, “What potential side effects or risks come with what your recommending?” Doctors should be willing to answer questions about risks and side effects openly.
- If you’re not sure your doctor is being clear about all the risks, or that they are skimming past them to get you to agree to a treatment, ask, “What research is available explaining the risks of this option?”
Ask “what are my other options?” There is always more than one option to a medical concern, because you always have the option not to treat it at all. Hopefully, you doctor will list some other options that sound better to you or that you feel more comfortable trying first.
- If your doctor is unwilling to discuss other options, or you feel pressured to make a certain decision that you are still unsure about, remain firm in saying that you will wait until you have more information about the recommendation.
Bring evidence supporting your opinion.If you read an article or some other information from a reliable source, you can bring this in to your doctor and say, “I read this, and it says this treatment has many long-term risks. What’s your opinion about that?” You doctor may explain why they wouldn’t want to follow recommendations based on this information, making you feel more at ease.
- You can also discuss your own family history as evidence. Since many medical problems have a genetic component, you can say to your doctor, “My mother tried this same treatment when she had this issue, but it didn’t work and she ended up having to try something else. What do you think?”
Remain firm in refusing a test or treatment you don’t want.If you have tried asking questions and expressing your doubts about your doctor’s recommendations, yet they are making you feel like you don’t have a choice, you can still refuse their tests or treatment. Your doctor may want you to sign an informed release form stating that you are refusing the recommended treatment even though it was satisfactorily explained to you.
- You can also refuse treatment if you have signed a Do Not Resuscitate (DNR) form in case of an emergency. This may be included with your Advance Directive forms on file with your doctor or at your local hospital. In this case, a court will have to appoint a power of attorney health care for you.
- You can appoint your own power of attorney for health care in the case of debilitating illness or emergency. This may be a good idea for decisions to sustain life, or situations where you are physically or mentally unable to tell doctors what you want. Talk to your attorney about this process.
- The only times that you may not be allowed to refuse treatment is if the health professionals feel that you “lack capacity” to make an informed decision. This means that your mind is impaired in some way, preventing you from using and understanding information to make an informed decision.
- Examples of lacking capacity may include certain mental health conditions such as schizophrenia or bipolar disorder, dementia, physical injuries causing confusion, drowsiness, or loss of consciousness, or intoxication caused by drugs or alcohol.
Seeking a Second Opinion
Tell your doctor you want a second opinion before committing.If your doctor is firmly unsupportive of trying treatment options other than the one that you are uncomfortable with, explain that you want to find a second opinion first. A good doctor will be supportive of you looking for other opinions. They may even be able to recommend some other specialists.
- Getting a second opinion is sometimes required by insurances for surgeries. Sometimes the second doctor doesn’t agree with the first regarding treatment, and sometimes they do.
- If the 2 doctors do not agree, it’s best to seek a third opinion to help you decide.
Ask your doctor office to send records to the second doctor.The doctor giving you a second opinion will need all your medical information and records. Ask in person before leaving the appointment with your first doctor, or call the office later by phone, to ask that your records are given to another office.
- You may have to sign a confidentiality waiver about sharing your medical records. Therefore, it can be most convenient to ask your first doctor’s office staff about sending the records before you leave.
Bring a list of concerns and questions to the second doctor appointment.When you go to the second doctor, briefly summarize your condition and explain why you are there seeking another opinion. Tell them all the reasons you are not sure you want to follow the treatment recommendation that your first doctor is advocating for.
- This doctor will hopefully give you some more information about the procedure or treatment that was not given to you before, helping you to decide what to do. Or, they may have alternative approaches that they have used that you feel more comfortable with trying.
Leave your doctor completely if you don’t trust them despite your efforts.If you have tried various approaches with your doctor and you still feel that they don’t value your input, or that they make you feel foolish for asking questions, this is not a healthy doctor-patient relationship. Find another doctor in your area that you can have a better working relationship with.
- Other signs that it may be time to leave your doctor include your doctor not coordinating well with other physicians, their office is disorganized, or your doctor is so rarely available that you usually see assistants or nurse practitioners instead.
- If your doctor is often rude to you, even if they seem knowledgeable overall, find another provider. This is not a beneficial dynamic. A quality doctor should be knowledgeable, but they should also be kind, supportive, and attentive to your questions and needs.
- If the number of doctors in your area is limited, seek advice from trusted family members, friends, or medical assistance agencies about the problem you’re having. They may be able to recommend other doctors to you, or help you travel farther distances to see a doctor that is more compatible with you.
Maintaining Good Communication
Prepare a list of questions and symptoms for all your appointments.When seeing a doctor about a specific health condition, prepare questions ahead of time to discuss with them. This will send a message to your doctor from the start that you plan on being fully involved in your own care. Write your questions down on a piece of paper and have them ready when your doctor comes into your room.
- Also write down any symptoms that you’re having so that you don’t forget about them. Include when each symptom started, how frequent it is, and how much of a concern it is to you.
List all your health concerns at the start of an appointment.Appointment times often run short, and sometimes people wait to ask about questions concerning them until the very end, when your time is almost up, often because they are nervous about the health problem. Don’t wait to bring up something that’s concerning you. Begin with the concerns that are most pressing or you think are most important.
- Your doctor will probably ask, “What brings you in today?” at the very start of your appointment. Use your list of questions/concerns as a summarize why you are there. If you have several concerns, let your doctor know this before you start listing them, so they know to let you finish.
Stop your doctor politely to ask questions or to redirect the conversation.Sometimes a doctor will begin responding to your concerns before you’re finished explaining everything because they want to start trying to help. If this happens, say, “Oh, sorry, I wasn’t finished. I think…” and continue with what you were saying.
- If your doctor says something that you’re not sure you understand, say, “Sorry, I’m not sure I understood what you just said. Can you explain that to me again?”
Keep good records and notes of all appointments.Jot down notes about things your doctor says in response to your questions and concerns. This will help you later in case you want to look up more information, call the office to ask more questions, or seek another opinion.
- Most offices provide a summary sheet that they print out and give to patients as they leave an appointment. Always keep these sheets stored in a place at home where you can refer back to them if you have more questions about your treatment or something your doctor said.
QuestionI've been to the hospital 14 times for the same issue and my doctor can't find anything wrong. What do I do?Jenna Swain-RadfordCommunity AnswerIf you feel like something is wrong, get more help. See another doctor or ask if your doctor can refer you to a specialist. You know your body better than anyone else, trust yourself.Thanks!
QuestionCould I get in any sort of trouble if I'm under the age of 18?wikiHow ContributorCommunity AnswerNo. If you are having problems with your doctor, or you would like a second opinion, they have to listen to you. Your age is irrelevant. However, it would be a good idea to tell your parent/guardian about the situation ahead of time if you can, they may have some advice for you about how to best voice your concerns, and they can back you up with the doctor if need be.Thanks!
QuestionWhat do I do if a doctor tells me they were going to do something, but didn't do it and I ended up having to go to the emergency room?Allison Batera SullivanCommunity AnswerIf you feel that your doctor acted negligently and caused you to go to the emergency room, you have the right to pursue a malpractice case. If you're unsure, try speaking with the doctor about why the original treatment wasn't performed, and with a lawyer specializing in medical malpractice to get their opinion.Thanks!
QuestionAt age 62, I do not want to have a colonoscopy; I have no problems in that area. I know my physician is going to disagree. What should I do?wikiHow ContributorCommunity AnswerCatching colon cancer early is the best way to ensure it is treatable. While a colonoscopy is uncomfortable, colon cancer is definitely far worse.Thanks!
How would I go about confronting a doctor who has written something in my chart that is false?
Video: What to do When Your Doctors Disagree
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