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Participating in Decision Making

by Thomas V. Jones, MD, MPH

To participate fully in the medical decision making process, people need to work closely with their doctors. People may wish to obtain additional information about a recommended test or treatment before making a decision (see see Researching a Disorder). Information can be obtained from

  • Pamphlets, brochures, and other materials doctors provide

  • Publications, such as books, newsletters, and magazines, designed to explain medical information to consumers

  • The Internet

People should read the information carefully, keeping in mind the potential sources of bias in the information. For example, anecdotal information may indicate a treatment is helpful, but the treatment may not be helpful for everyone. These resources may generate additional questions for people to discuss with their doctors (see see Making the Most of a Health Care Visit). People may also want to consult with another doctor, particularly one who has additional expertise (that is, get a second opinion—see see Getting a Second Opinion).

People should also be clear in expressing their choices to their doctors, especially if they have conditions, such as a terminal illness, that may make it impossible for them to express their wishes at some point later on (see see Advance Directives).