Involving Patients and Their Families in Medical DecisionsheadingContent

Posted on August 17, 2013

doctor holding girl with stethoscope listening to his heart and mom behind the girl

I read a recent article in the New York Times (“If This Were Your Mother, Doctor…” August 1, 2013, by Haider Javed Warraich, MD) and was struck by the thoughtfulness of the question posed by the family of a patient who was on a respirator – “Doctor, what would you do if this was your mother?”

Before answering, the astute author thought about his own parents who live very different lives and have different wishes for when they get old. The doctor then asked – well, tell me more about your mother…

This brings home the point that we as doctors are participants in your care, not the sole decision makers.

We can guide you with numbers, statistics and mind-blowing research results, but the fact is, none of that may apply to your particular situation.

As an orthopaedic sports surgeon, I rarely have to deal with life threatening issues (although I’m part of a team that deals with this often in elderly patients with hip fractures), but I’m often involved in major decisions that affect quality of life.

My patients often have to choose whether to alter their lifestyle to protect, let’s say a knee with an ACL tear, or undergo surgery to reconstruct that ACL to maintain their active lifestyle – even if there is risk involved, and time off from work.

It is our job as physicians to be an active participant in your care and not sit back just spouting off numbers and results. If you ask me what would I do if I had this injury, I would ask the same thing … tell me more about you. What are your goals? What are you willing or unwilling to change about your lifestyle with regard to this injury. Then I can answer your questions clearly as the injury pertains to you and only you.