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5 questions you must always ask your doctor

The days when doctors were paternalistic are long gone. Instead, your healthcare is increasingly dictated by combined decision making between you and the doctors. For you to play an active and vital role in your own healthcare, you must master the art of questioning doctors. Every recommendation must be questioned, not in attempts to find fault, but rather to ensure that you fully comprehend everything. And that all decisions about your healthcare are always in your best interests.

Prior to any test, treatment or procedure, you must get a clear clarification before giving your consent and accepting the recommendations. Just simply ask whether you really need to go ahead with what has been proposed. If it’s crystal clear, quickly accept and proceed. If it’s all hazy and appears muddled up with incomprehensible jargon, don’t accept what’s being proposed. Come back another day when the doctor is ready to explain in plain language, or seek alternate views elsewhere.

Ask about risks. Nothing that gets done in healthcare is entirely risk free. Once you understand the risks, weigh up this against the perceived benefits. Next ask if there are simpler and safer options. This is especially so if the medical interventions being proposed are complex and difficult to comprehend. You should always go for options that are overwhelmingly beneficial, are simpler, and less risky.

Always ask about costs. Many entities running healthcare services are in it for the business, and not for charity. A simple encounter with your doctor may cost you thousands. You must ask ahead of time what everything costs. Tick off recommendations that appear unnecessarily excessive and don’t pay for them. Ask about alternatives that may be equally effective, but less expensive. If convinced a certain costly intervention is necessary, shop around from other healthcare providers who might offer you a better bargain.

Never forget that many ailments don’t actually need to be treated. So you must always ask what would happen if you didn’t accept any of your doctor’s recommendations. In simple terms, it’s called ‘doing nothing’. Rational doctors will be quick to recommend doing nothing if you have a mundane and inconsequential condition. But others will be quick to recommend interventions that are entirely unnecessary, either out of sheer ignorance or for the sake of personal gain.

Asking questions helps clear uncertainties in your healthcare endeavors. Don’t ever shy away from asking everything and anything. If your doctors are uncomfortable with that, go elsewhere, and ask some more.

If you feel less confident about questioning doctors, browse through www.choosingwisely.org. You will find handy tips on empowering you to always be in full command of your own healthcare.


Dr Alfred Murage is a Consultant Gynecologist and Fertility Specialist.amurage@mygyno.co.ke

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