A couple weeks ago I wrote about oncologists who recommend chemo to their patients and then profit from those chemo drugs they’ve recommended. One doctor I talked to said that oncologists are the only doctors who do have that “privilege.” I haven’t been able to verify that, however….
A whole ‘nuther part of this conversation came up yesterday when I interviewed a cardiologist on my radio show (see yesterday’s blog entry). We were discussing the New York Times article that discussed the tens of thousands of patients who needed heart by-pass surgery and had, instead, received stents to unblock their arteries. Just a few years later, some of those stents are becoming problematic. The medical community is now second guessing whether stents are actually all they were cracked up to be.
During the interview, I asked the doctor why that would happen (and it’s discussed in the Times article, too) — he suggested it was because patients are talking only to the doctors who do angioplasty (“you’ve got a blockage, and we can fix it real quick right here in my office this afternoon”) — and afterall, that’s what those doctors will always recommend. Patients don’t take the time to look into the possibility of some other treatment — they choose the quicker and easier because that’s the carrot held in front of them.
Well — duh! (my reaction – not his!) That’s what they are trained to do — and — THAT’S HOW THEY MAKE MONEY!
You know — as patients we will never EVER get around the fact that doctors — just like us — want to make as much money as they can. What we need to remember is that that’s even more important to them than fixing us. We can’t blame them for wanting to make as much money as they can. Who doesn’t?
But there are a couple of lessons to be learned here. First: never trust a doctor who has a financial stake in your treatment to recommend the best treatment for you. Period. I don’t care who the doctor is, I don’t care how benevolent s/he is — if the doctor recommends a treatment to you that is a profit-center for him/her — then get a second opinion from someone who will not profit from your treatment.
It’s not that the doctor isn’t trustworthy. It’s not that the treatment recommendation is wrong, and it’s not that you might not benefit from that treatment — it’s that skepticism can be healthier for you.
Second: the real question here is objectivity. The doctor can’t be objective because s/he has a financial stake in the outcome. You can’t be objective because the doctor has offered you a way out of your bad health dilemma, you are feeling grateful (maybe), and it’s an answer. That’s why a hefty dose of skepticism can be helpful. It allows you to take a step backwards and acquire some of that objectivity you really need.
Unless you have an emergency, gather the information you need from your about-to-profit-from-your-treatment doctor, then get a second opinion. THEN decide what you want to do next.
If, in fact, the decision is to go with the treatment from that first doctor, then by all means — return to that doctor for the treatment if you want to. By then you’ll be informed, empowered, and confident you’ve made the right choice.
And that’s really what it’s all about.
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