I had an interesting experience today that I thought was worth sharing. As I am getting ready to head to medical school in three months, I have a number of things I need to do before I can start. One of which is to get a number of required immunizations. In addition to these required immunizations, there are four “recommended” immunizations. I did a little research about them, and the average adult isn’t at risk of acquiring the diseases being vaccinated for. However, I understand that going into medicine might put me at risk. Part of my being accepted to ATSU meant I could be a member of a facebook group for all the students in my class. The group is for questions regarding matriculation to ATSU. I thought, “Hmm, maybe someone can weigh in on this.” So, I posted my question. Minutes later, I got a response from a student that said, “Just get them. Don’t overthink it.”
Needless to say, I was a little perturbed. This response is not unlike one we used to hear from our parents…”Because I said so.” I like to think of myself as a critically thinking adult. I try to make decisions based on carefully weighing the benefits and risks, and I believe that most people operate the same way (or at least they should). A few minutes later I received some helpful responses from other former students, but I still couldn’t shake the first comment from my mind. I was thinking, “I really hope that you have a better answer to give your patients some day.”
This little interaction is a nice analogy for all that is wrong in medicine today. Patients are more informed than ever about health issues, and they don’t just take whatever their physician says lying down (no pun intended). Now, I must say that I am first in line to promote vaccinations. I’ve read a lot about them, and the benefits far outweigh the risks. However, the fact is that many patients, not unlike myself, are concerned – for good reason. I think we should always ask “why” about the things we put in our bodies. Doctors have a lot of patients to worry about, but you are the one who has to live with the consequences. It’s your body, and you should be an equal partner in your health decisions. Furthermore, vaccines aren’t free. Why should I spend money on something that I might not need and that could actually cause a bad side effect? I recently read that over 40% of doctors underestimate the cost of brand-name prescription drugs, and a similar percentage overestimate the cost of generics. It’s your money, and you’re the one who’s going to have to pay for medicines. Don’t be afraid to ask your doctor, “What is this going to cost me?” and “Is there a cheaper alternative?”
I don’t know the person who wrote that comment, and he’s probably a nice guy. I know that he’s definitely not the last doctor I will encounter that will share the same attitude, but I can honestly say that I would not want to be his patient. And you shouldn’t either.