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What questions should I ask a doctor about a recommended test or treatment?

Dr. David L. Katz, MD, MPH
Preventive Medicine
I recommend the following questions as a matter of routine in response to any recommended test or treatment:

Is this the lowest risk option? If not, does this approach add benefit that more than offsets the risk? Is this the test or treatment you would have if you were in my shoes? Is this the test or treatment you would prescribe for a loved one in my shoes? Is there another option with less risk, more potential benefit, or both that we should consider? Are you sure I need another test, and will the results change my treatment options? Can you tell me how? Are you sure I need a treatment, and will it reliably change my results for the better? Can you tell me how? How confident are you in this recommendation you are making?

A lot of truly good information can be gleaned from such an exchange, but actually it serves another purpose too. It slows down a doctor who may be harried and hurried, and forces her/him to deal with you as…a person, rather than a patient. It may be that an emphatic introduction of the human element into the medical equation is the best defense against human fallibility.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.