OK – so my Latin might be rusty, but a question came up this week that will help you understand even better how a patient needs to advocate on his/her own behalf….
I got a call from the mother of a friend of mine. (I’ll call her Jane.) Jane’s husband Max has been diagnosed with prostate cancer and needs a prostatectomy (surgery to remove the prostate). They met with a well-respected surgeon at a well-respected medical center in Boston, and the surgeon recommended he have laparoscopic surgery. The date was set for later in March, and they went on their way.
Since then, Jane and Max have spent some time learning more about prostatectomies and other options, and they came across references to robotic prostatectomies. (As an aside — I actually know a little bit about this robotic surgery since I’ve interviewed two of the surgeons at University Hospital on my radio show who do robotic surgeries, and one of them is a urologist who does these prostatectomies frequently.)
Now Jane and Max are in Florida for a few weeks and last week they went for a second opinion at another very highly respected medical center in Florida. The surgeon there told them more about the robotic prostatectomy option, and Max was pleased at what he heard. In both their minds, it seems like a better option.
So they got back in touch with the Boston surgeon to share their findings — and he tried to steer them away from the robotic surgery option. He told them the laparoscopic surgery was the only recommendation he would make, which, based on what they had learned, just confuses them.
That’s why Jane called me. She already had the answer to this conundrum — she just wanted to check with me to see if she was on the right track. “Is it possible,” she asked me, “That Dr. Boston doesn’t think Max should have robotic surgery because he doesn’t do the robotic surgery himself? And if he doesn’t do it himself, then he won’t make any money from surgery?”
Bingo, Jane!! It does my heart good that you figured this out. Most patients want to think their doctors have their best interests at heart — and many do — but in second place behind their own wish/need/desire to make money. As long as they can make money from you, they have your best interest at heart.
Now — just to be clear — the lesson here is that sometimes there are other motives for a doctor’s recommendation. This does not answer the robotic vs non-robotic question — it just shows that there are very possibly other considerations in the decision-making. My opinion from here is that Jane and Max need to find a doctor who does both the robotic and non-robotic laparoscopic surgeries and get his or her opinion.
In the coming days, I’ll be writing more about this subject — because it’s a biggy, and as I said:
Caveat Patiens — let the patient beware.
(Read an update to this post: http://epablog.wordpress.com/2007/02/23/prostate-cancer-caveat-part-ii/ )
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