We’re sadly getting used to reading shocking headlines in the news, but here’s one I’m equally passionate about: The third highest cause of death in the U.S. is medical error. That’s more than 250,000 deaths annually.

I recently saw a client whose doctor, in my opinion, had looked at his recent labs and focused too much on one a relatively minor concern and overlooked a much more serious one. I was frustrated–for my client, who continues to focus and place a lot of energy on following a certain dietary restriction that I feel may be unnecessary–and because of the ignorance and lack of knowledge on the parts of professionals we often look to to make our most important health-related calls.

When I broke my hand a few years ago, I was getting physical therapy every week, where they also practically forced me to get an X-ray at each visit. I complained to the doctor, who agreed that it seemed a bit excessive, so we pared down. But if I hadn’t spoken up about it, I would have been getting unnecessary radiation as well as additional costs.

I’ve seen this again and again, as I know my colleagues have. I was doing some research to look into the costs, literal and figurative, of placing blind faith in our physicians. A Newsday article caught my eye. The message? Don’t be afraid to ask questions, like:

  • What were the results and what do they mean?
  • What is the cost? Will my insurance cover it?
  • Is this really necessary?
  • Are there less invasive and more conservative approaches we could take?

It goes on to highlight the fact that we are essentially “hiring” our doctors to work for us, so we should not feel intimidated or swayed by their judgement. You can also do your own research, and go back to your doctor more informed and armed with additional questions. Going for a second opinion is also wise in many cases. Doctors can be just as uninformed, mistaken or just plain mediocre at their jobs as the rest of us. So be your own advocate. It’s critical for your health.

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