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how to make an objective medical treatment decision

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.

Example: Let’s use a case about chronic migraines as an example. Meet Sarah. Sarah has suffered from migraine headaches for many years. Her doctor has prescribed a drug for those headaches, and she has used the drug on a number of occasions, finding some relief.

But Sarah is not a fan of drugs in general and objects to the thought of using chemicals to control her pain.

Through her research, she learned that some forms of migraines may be relieved by acupuncture. And a friend who also suffers from migraines told Sarah about the relief she gets by visiting her chiropractor.

Like Sarah, you’ll want to uncover all the possibilities, even though your doctor may not have mentioned them in your initial conversation.

Determine Pros and Cons for Each Medical 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. Don’t discount intuition. You may “know” one treatment is a better choice than another for you. Just be careful not to confuse your intuition with wishful thinking.

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.

Example: In Sarah’s case, she was able to determine those pros and cons fairly easily. Included were the facts that her insurance would not cover the acupuncture her brother is a chiropractor.

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.