When Your Doctor Speaks, Do You Really Listen?

New research suggests that what a doctor is actually saying and what a patient hears may actually be two quite different things.  In an ideal scenario the pros and cons of any treatment should be carefully weighed and alternatives considered before deciding on any course of action. This is what constitutes the informed consent process; however this is not always the case.

According to research conducted by Dr. Michael Rothberg of Baystate Medical Center in Springfield, people contemplating serious medical treatments did not have a very balanced understanding of the consequences of the procedures they were contemplating or the choice they would be making.

For instance, many believe that stents (the tubes that open clogged coronary arteries) can prevent heart attacks and therefore deaths – when in fact what they do is prevent chest pain. The same lack of understanding was displayed by those contemplating knee replacements, prostate cancer tests, taking cholesterol medications, etc.

Sometimes the pros and cons are not clearly understood and very often the possible benefits of any one course of action are overestimated by the patients, which may be unrealistic and misleading. Part of the problem could be that people are unable to make the best decisions when they are in pain, or are fearful and confused. Part of the blame could also lie with doctors who may be poor communicators.