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How to Make an Objective Medical Treatment Decision

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Updated July 18, 2012

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List All Your Treatment Options

Faced with tough decisions about treatment or other aspects of our medical care, it's difficult to keep our emotions out of the decision making. We are upset about the diagnosis, upset that we need to make these kinds of decisions, fearful that we'll make the wrong choice, and even more fearful of the potential for choosing the wrong option.

Unless you are in an emergency situation, it's likely you can take some time to research options before you make your final decision. Even if your doctor is pressuring you for an immediate decision, ask if you might take some time to think it over.

Objectivity is important, but often seems impossible. Here are some guidelines for objective decision-making so you can remove as much emotion from your decision making task as possible.

If you are lucky, or if you proactively try to find one, your doctor will have been trained in the Shared Decision Making Process which emphasizes your beliefs and values in your decision-making. (There are experts in Shared Decision Making, too - learn more.)

1. List All Your Treatment Options

Begin by making a list of all your options. Your doctor will have provided one or more possibilities. Your research will provide more. You might even consider asking other patients with your same diagnosis what their choices were. Your choices may include surgery, drugs, physical therapies, even complementary or alternative therapies.

Sarah's case is a good example. 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 treatment conversation.

Included may be the right to refuse treatment all together.

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