Friday, December 27, 2013

Why should I question my IVF doctor ?

I had an interesting consultation with an infertile couple yesterday. They had done an IVF cycle elsewhere and I was asking them some basic questions about their treatment (such as how many eggs were retrieved and the quality of the embryos). They seemed pretty clueless and when I told them I was upset with them because they were so poorly informed about their medical treatment details, they took offense.  “ Why are you asking us these questions ? You use your PC daily. Do you know how much RAM it has ?  We went to a good doctor and trusted him, so we know he did a good job and we didn’t dig for more details. After all, why should we ? Just like we trust you, we trusted him and don’t see any need to do a postmortem !  There’s no point in cluttering our brain with these technical minutiae – we’d rather let the doctor do his job and not interfere or ask question !”

I was a little taken aback about how proud they were about how little they knew about their treatment. I believe that patients need to become experts on their treatment . The more they know about what is happening to them, the better for them, and the better for their doctor, because they can then behave as well-informed partners and this will help them get the best medical care.

Asking question does not mean meddling with the doctor’s treatment or rejecting his advise. Neither is it a sign of distrust – it’s just what every patient needs to do, to make sure they are in control of their life. After all, IVF treatment does not have a 100% guaranteed success rate – and being well-informed helps patients to cope better with the IVF emotional roller coaster ride.

The couple did not agree with me. They felt that it was not their job to “monitor” or second-guess their doctor. They felt that trust in the doctor was an integral part of a healthy doctor-patient relationship – and that cross-questioning the doctor would harm this. It’s true that many doctors don’t like patients who ask questions - and some will actually get irritated and upset when the patient wants his doubts clarified.

I agreed that I was not the right doctor for them; and this was the first time in the entire consultation when they whole-heartedly agreed with me ! I guess the moral of the story is simple - Doctors get the patients they deserve – and patients get the doctors they like !

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