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Handbook for Mortals : Talking With Your Doctor

Situations: "Tell me what to do"

Doctor: Have you thought about the different treatments that we talked about?
Patient: Yes, but I don't know what to do.
Doctor: Well, do you have more questions?
Patient: No, I just want to do what you think is best.

Even if you are very assertive about knowing all there is to know about your illness and making your own decisions, there may be a time when you just don't know what to do. You might want someone else to make the decision. It may be a relief to have someone just tell you what you should do. And that's okay.

Having a serious illness, especially one that you are likely to die of, is overwhelming in at least two ways. First, the very thought of dying is overwhelming. Second, there are a multitude of decisions that must be made throughout the course of the illness. These can tax the healthiest of people, not to mention those feeling ill from side effects of medication, lack of sleep, or just being sick and tired.

Some people are very comfortable having others make decisions for them, or at least weighing others' opinions before making their own decisions. If that's you, then the best thing you can do is to identify family members, doctors, and other people whose opinions you trust.

Other people fear that if they reach the point where they are asking other people to make decisions for them, they are "giving up" either control or the will to live. Neither of those is a bad thing if it is what you need to do. In fact, it can be a relief. But if the need to let someone else take control, even for a while, distresses you, it may help to tell yourself a few important things.

Remember that you've made a lot of decisions up to this point. Choosing to let one pass is really a choice, not a loss of your ability, adulthood, or right to make future decisions. If you are truly unhappy with the decision, it is likely to be flexible; few decisions are one-chance-only opportunities. If you are relying on a family member or friend to make a decision for you, then you probably picked that person (and this decision for him to make) because you are comfortable with his judgment. If you are asking your doctor to decide for you, then you are relying on someone whose expertise you have sought because you believe her judgment and knowledge of you and your illness to be sound.

To learn more about the book "Handbook for Mortals" click here.