When my son was a toddler he had ear infections one after another for about a year. My pediatrician suggested putting tubes in his ears to drain the fluid. That meant anesthesia. I went home and did some reading and found out that in the United States at the time there was a 25% mortality rate among young children who received anesthesia. I didn’t like the odds so I went back to my doctor and asked about the possibility of no dairy for my child. I had read that sometimes dairy can cause a lot of problems in young children. My doctor agreed we could try. Guess what? Not ONE more ear infection. Ever.

Certainly I am not a medical genius. My point is that we all need to take personal responsibility for our health care. For the prescriptions we take and the care we get and the tests we consent to. In her book Overtreated Shannon Brownlee talks about people taking an active and educated role in their health care. Some of the questions she poses are very thought provoking. Like, “Is a CT scan always necessary after your child suffers a bump on the head? Should you think twice before undergoing surgery for lower back pain? Are your elderly parents going to be allowed to die at home, or will they spend their last few weeks in a hospital, hooked up to machines and tubes, subjected to painful, unnecessary procedures?” She goes on to say “Each year, our medical system delivers an enormous amount of care that does nothing to improve our health or lengthen our lives. Between 20 and 30 cents on every health care dollar we spend goes towards useless treatments and hospitalizations, towards CT scans we don’t need, towards ineffective surgeries- towards care that not only does nothing to improve our health, but that we wouldn’t want if we understood how dangerous it can be.”

Health insurance premiums are rising every year. More and more people are choosing a high deductible health plan just so they can have medical coverage. Health plans with a $5000 deductible and 20% coinsurance with a stop loss of $3000 means that you would be on the hook for $8000.00 if an individual in your family needed surgery or was hospitalized. That’s certainly better than the $50,000 bill you would pay without health insurance and I know that accidents do happen. But, what about the stuff we can do to keep ourselves healthy? The more effort we put into doing the things that will keep us healthy the more we get to stay out of the doctorsʼ office. When your doctor prescribes a treatment for you remember his job is to advise. Yours is to consent.