Healthcare News & Insights

Shocker! Docs don’t take their own medicine


The advice doctors give you isn’t necessarily what they themselves do when faced with a medical situation.  That’s the takeaway from a recent article in the Archives of Internal Medicine.

Researchers asked physicians how they would handle two medical situations that required them to weigh the likelihood of a cure against the expected side effects of treatment. In the first hypothetical situation, doctors were presented with a diagnosis of cancer and asked to choose between a treatment that:

  • would cure 84% of patients, but leave 4% with complications such as infections and chronic diarrhea, or
  • would cure 80% of patients with no complications.

More doctors recommended the first option for their patients than for themselves.

In the second hypothetical, 63% of doctors said they would opt out of a potentially life-saving treatment for avian flu to avoid side effects — but only 49% would advise their patients to do the same.

That’s not to say doctors are giving out bad, or hypocritical, advice to patients. The researchers believe that doctors have a natural bias toward recommending the most logical choice (i.e. the treatment most likely to cure them). But when making their own medical decisions, they’re more likely to consider more emotional issues, such as the effect of long-term complications on quality of life.

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