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Freeway Ends – Merge Right
Thank you for joining me on this road trip. I realize how much more I wanted to share. The head-on crash that I have identified – the clash of values, crashing lives – is real. Maintaining or restoring health, comfort, and function: this is not a game. There are no roughly equal teams, no referees or umpires to enforce the rules, no judges to make sure players stay within the lines. The penalty for crossing a line in a game is trivial. Crossing a line while barreling down a highway can extract the very life from your body. A backseat driver might harass you for weaving, but no referee will step in to save you from a head-on collision.
Health care and illness care pose the same kind of unique challenge for every patient. The only real "player" is the physician; he or she literally chooses the game and then declares the rules. No one huddles with the patient, exchanging ideas about what is the next best "play"; only the doctor decides. Results – future comfort and capabilities – can vary greatly between treatment options, even between practitioners who offer what might on the surface appear to be the same program or be described by similar words. Even survival can hang in the balance.
Our patients are innocently traveling down the road of life. They place their trust in the very choices that we make for them. The only choices that they make – or that are made for them by an insurance carrier or on referral from another doctor or on the advice of a friend – are to see this doctor or that one, to pursue this treatment or that one, to stay in the conventional lane or to turn off on an alternate road.
While the goal is obvious – to flourish and prosper – the map is unclear and incomplete. The only hope a patient has is for you to guide him or her to understand the research and the truthful results available for each of their choices. Understanding the contrasting options in treating cardiovascular diseases can cut through the fog and clearly light the different roads ahead. Patients need more than a second opinion on whether to take this road or that. They are literally in "driver's ed" with just a learning permit: they need informed, gentle guidance to find what they need in order to understand all the rules of the road, so that they might more safely travel through life.
Despite their best intention and efforts to stay well within the lines, patients are still driving down that road alone, trusting that their choices for recovery or better health will get them to their destination. Sadly, many of the options available with surgery or medications will veer across the centerline into their lane, and the head-on collision can be deadly. Buckle up.
Brand names are trademarks of their respective owners.
John Parks Trowbridge, MD, has long been regarded for his incisive thought and broad perspectives. Recognized as a Fellow of the American College for Advancement in Medicine in 1990 and honored with a Lifetime Achievement Award by the International College of Integrative Medicine in 2014, he has lectured around the world on integrative medicine topics and is listed in over five dozen volumes of Who's Who. He maintains an active office practice in Humble (Houston), Texas. Phone: 800-FIX-PAIN.
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