BY MARK SCHOLZ, MD
It’s a painful reminder of failing health to
be taking handfuls of pills every morning. Frustration mounts and the question
often arises, “Are these pills really necessary?” Have I become the victim of a
multibillion dollar medical establishment?
It’s logical to have questions. After all,
what happens when your pills are stopped for a couple days—usually nothing! One
can’t help but wonder, maybe some of these pills are necessary but all of
them? There must be some “extras” in
there someplace. And what about interactions? Some patients intuitively suspect
the human body has a maximum pill quota—they believe exceeding that maximum
must be dangerous.
As a practicing
physician, I have conversations about “too many pills” all the time. It makes me
think of the movie Amadeus when the Emperor Joseph complained that Mozart’s
music had, “Too many notes,” he said,” just cut a few and it will be fine.”
Patients often don’t understand the reason
for their medications. Everyone agrees that the game of selecting medications
is played by balancing benefits with risks. But this type of analysis requires
homework beyond most people’s capability.
Yet when people unquestioningly defer to
their doctor they feel powerless. They often have second thoughts. Sometimes they feel resentment. Managing
one’s health is a really high-stakes game. How can one attain greater peace of
Bill Clinton famously stated, “Character
doesn’t matter.” But character is all we
have to go on when we appoint a leader to make important decisions on our
behalf. So actually, the opposite is true.
Character is very important.
While no human is perfect, physicians (and
politicians) need to be held to a higher standard because in their position of
power mistakes are much more damaging.
It may seem obvious to state, but the best way to find peace of mind is
to look for a physician with exemplary character.
Making accurate character judgments is
challenging, but for most of us, the alternative of running our own medical
care is practically unattainable. I don’t mean to impugn doing some background
medical research to take your conversation with the doctor to a higher level.
But God forbid you discover in the course of your conversation that you know
more about the subject than your doctor. Is there any revelation of character
deficiency more devastating than that?
You can’t place all your trust in an Ivy-league
degree or a Beverly Hills address. It’s the overall picture of the physician’s
character that matters most. What type of people does the doctor hire for his
office? What kind of doctors does he refer to?
Does his billing department behave in an ethical manner? Does he respect
your time? Does he listen to your
questions? Realize that people can justify just about any kind of behavior if
they consider themselves more important than you.
All of us practice character analysis in our
daily life. Some of us are better judges than others. Ask friends or family
members to come with you to the doctor visit and get their opinions as well. My
co-author Ralph Blum who successfully dodged the prostate snatchers for twenty
years has stated many times, “Patients must trust their instincts about their
doctor and be willing to act on them.”