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Making Decisions
Questions to Ask Before Making a Decision
Doctors, social workers and nurses at Children's Memorial Hospital believe that parents should be both involved and informed when making decisions about their child's care. They also recognize that the process of making decisions about operations, treatment plans, and even about stopping treatment can be challenging -- and the best thing parents can do is ask lots of questions. "Parents have to understand the challenge they are facing when they are making a decision, and the consequences for not making a decision," says plastic surgeon Dr. Frank Vicari. "And doctors and other caregivers have a responsibility to provide explanations in clear, easy-to-understand terms…I commonly tell people that at some gut level it ought to make sense -- and if it doesn't then don't do it, and keep asking questions until it does."
While many decisions are very straightforward and have to be decided immediately, others require more time and complex analysis. "Most of the time, the decision is relatively easy," says surgical director, Dr. Riccardo Superina. "In those cases, the doctor has to present the situation in ways that parents can understand -- and explain that there are no real alternatives. The real difficulty is when you're not sure of the outcome." This is a time when parents need to start asking lots of questions to make sure they are well informed.
"Start talking about possible scenarios and asking the doctor your `what ifs' in advance," advises social worker Mary Mathews. "This way, you are less likely to make a decision in crisis. Even if some of the information may be hard to hear, it's better to be prepared and know what might happen. It's also O.K. to consider what your child thinks and feels about it, but this doesn't mean you ask your child to make the decision."
Before making a decision, Dr. Vicari also urges parents to ask their doctor to describe his background and qualifications, "If someone asks, 'Where did you train and how long have you been doing this?,' a doctor should not be offended...It's also important that you have a doctor who feels comfortable sending you for a second opinion and giving them himself."
Consider the following strategies when making a critical (or even every day) decision about your child's health care. With all of these suggestions, choose the ones that are right for you. After all, you know your child best.
Questions to Ask Your Doctor
Consult this checklist to figure out what questions to ask.
Questions to Ask Yourself
Review these self-pointers before finalizing your decision.
Questions to Ask Your Child
Find out what your child thinks and feels, and consider her opinion as well.
Liz Paris A Human Process
Dr. Karan Emerick talks about the challenges of making medical decisions.
"It's really important to make sure you trust your doctor, but trust is a two-way street. Doctors have to trust parents too. If you have this kind of rapport, when you do have a problem, you all work through it together and everyone is better off in the end."
Dr. Frank A. Vicari
Plastic Surgeon