Passenger or Driver: The Importance of Informed Consent.
Yes, it almost sounds like a Dr. Seuss-ism – “Would you rather be a passenger or a driver?” Most of us would rather be the driver, I would venture.
In every other aspect of our lives, we exercise informed consent. We want to be involved, in control, and overseeing every detail. Take for example the research we do in buying our next car, cell phone, or home. Think about how much we invest in knowing our stuff, so we can avoid the sales pitch and just get exactly what we want because we desire to make a responsible informed decision.
Yet, when it comes to our health care–prenatal care in particular–we often content ourselves with being a passenger. We readily abdicate responsibility for our health by laying down our questions and concerns to take the word of a stranger. We leave our right to informed consent in the waiting room.
Why is that?
“But, they’ve gone to medical school for a million years! What do I know?” Of course, their expertise is invaluable. Their advice is often sound. While they have an intimate knowledge of the human body and its various pathologies, they do not have an intimate knowledge of your body in particular. Its quirks and signals that are all too familiar to you.
What many fail to realize is that, no matter which role we choose to play in our health care, the consequences of any and all decisions are carried by the patient. By you and me. For the physician, it is out of sight, out of mind, not because they are inhumane, but because they are human.
When it comes to prenatal care in particular, we see a unique dilemma, because the health care we receive has more to do with a physiologic process, rather than pathology or disease. This isn’t a broken femur, a tumor, or a chronic illness. It is not even a parasite, in spite of the tongue-in-cheek proclamations of many. It is something our bodies do naturally, without a lot of help. It is a process more in need of general oversight, rather than active management.
Pregnant or not, it is imperative to understand that the practitioner is hired for his or her advice. It is up to the patient to decide what to do with it. We have many options.
1. Follow the advice without question.
2. Question the advice, decide what to do.
- What are the benefits?
- What are the risks?
- What are my alternatives?
- How does this advice apply to my personal case?
- What happens next if it doesn’t work?
3. Get a second opinion.
4. Discard the advice in favor of an alternative outside traditional medicine.
5. And more…
Medical decisions are rarely black and white.
The key is to remember who it is that carries the weight of the risks. It is ultimately the patient. There are many factors that play into the reasoning behind your doctor’s recommendations–not all of which are health-related. (That’s another post for another day, however.)
In the end, all you have to do is decide which set of risks you are most willing to live with. That is true informed consent.
Only the driver can decide that. Not the passenger.
In which seat will you choose to sit?
Thanks for reading.
Our best to you,
Desirre & Tiffany