Wednesday, January 18, 2006

Helping patients to make decisions

Infertility treatment is always elective - and couples need to make difficult choices, because they have so many treatment options. IUI ? IVF ? adoption ? donor egg ? There are no "right" or "wrong" answers, and each couple needs to find their own right answer for themselves. They often ask me to decide for themselves, and I refuse to do this. I explain to them that they need to live with the consequences of their decisions, which is why it is important they decide for themselves - so they have peace of mind they did their best.
I feel that an important role a doctor can play in this process is giving patients permission to decide for themselves - and encouraging them to do so, by acting as a non-judgmental sounding board. When they tell me what they have decided, I reassure my patients that their decision ( no matter what it is) is the right decision . Hearing this validation from their doctor ( an "authority" figure) gives patients considerable peace of mind that they have taken the right decision - and this makes it much easier for them to come to terms with themselves and their illness.
I understand it may not be easy for some doctors to do this. Many doctors are highly opinionated, and have strong feelings as to what is "right " or "wrong". However, being non-judgmental, and supporting the patient's choice, are key skills all doctors need to learn.

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