Tuesday 19 April 2011

Doctors 'often defy' their own treatment advice

Doctors might not always advise their patients the treatment they would choose for themselves, according to research recently published in the Archives of Internal Medicine. Given the option to pick from two treatments for themselves in a case of bowel cancer, the majority of doctors chose the treatment with least side effects and least chance of survival. Asked what to advise their patients, however, they would choose the treatment with the best chances for survival, but with more severe side effects.

I recently came across a piece of real-life evidence that doctors' own opinions do not always agree with standard protocol. A friend of mine who had had surgery to treat his oesophageal cancer was told the following by his oncologist: "As a medical professional following standard protocol, I would advise you to be sure and undergo another round of chemotherapy, but as a human being considering your chances and the severy side effects, I would advise against it."

Now this friend of mine did a lot of research on his own on treatment efficacy and side effects. He also was lucky enough to have a doctor who spoke openly about the difference between protocol and his own personal opinion, but a lot of doctors may not go that way. Some patients may have the time, energy and brains to do research on their own about their treatment options to be able to make educated decisions, but others may have to rely or want to be able to rely on the advice their doctors are giving them. Also, many people would not even think of questioning the authority of their doctors!!

Should we rely on our doctor's advice completely? After all, doctors have studied for years in order to reach their level of expertise and would therefore be expected to give a balanced advice about difficult decisions. However, it seems like a lot of doctors have also been taught not to get emotionally involved with their patients. They can avoid this by following standard protocol rather than treating patients like unique individuals and putting themselves in those patient's shoes.

Should doctors always follow standard protocol? Or should they risk getting more emotionally involved by imagining what they would do if put in their patient's situation...? Which way of working leads doctors to making the best decisions?

At The Therapy Room, our motto is 'treating people, not problems'. This means that we use a holistic approach and treat each person as a unique individual. We think it's important not to just treat symptoms, but look at the person as a whole and find the underlying cause as well. Each person has a unique background, and although something like a headache may look the same for a number of people, it's cause may be very different for every individual person. Therefore we think it is impossible to use a standard protocol for every person coming in with a certain problem.

We would love to know what your opinion is! What do you think are the pro's and con's on both of these approaches? Please leave your comment here and help us get a good discussion going!

Read the complete post about this on www.bbc.co.uk/news/health-13036508 .
We hope to be able to also post a link to the original article in Archives of Internal Medicine soon.


  1. I believe it should be a joint responsibility - the patient is ultimately responsible for what he or she allows to happen to themself, but the doctor should give the patient the information, in an understandable fashion that outlines the options that are currently available. In order for this information to be complete, the doctor must know about nutrition, the mind - in short the holistic approach. This will only happen with a unified healthcare approach, and all healthcare professionals practicing what they preach.
    An idealistic view, but in my opinion the only way to create a realistic outcome is idealism!

    Health and Happiness

    Integrated Health Consultant The Therapy Room

  2. There are no such things as side effects - this is just a twisting of the facts. Drugs and anything that we ingest, breath in, or put on our skin have effects and some of them are not condusive to health. This is a fundamental flaw in allopathy - there is no magic bullet, that leaves every cell alone, except the one you want to effect!

  3. Seems like a matter of information and trust authority. Most of the patients trust their doctors but leave themself out of the equation in getting all the right information. And the doctors know all the information, seen all the 'side-effects', the missery and what have you all and can than make a balanced, valued decision, I dont want to have that or this treatment. The patients trusts, does not take his/her responsibility and steps into the treatment, blind trust in authority.

    It is better to take responsibility, ask the information you need to make a balanced and valued decision for yourself. You are a capable of having your own view and responsibilties.

    Warm regards,
    Peter Voshol, PhD Integrative Physiologist, University of Cambridge