Wednesday, April 13. 2011
Patients who are looking for medical treatment advice from their physician may not get the objective opinion they're hoping for.
Doctors often offer different treatment recommendations for their patients than they would choose for themselves, according to researchers from Duke University and the University of Michigan. In a national survey of physicians, researchers found that doctors frequently advised patients to undergo treatments with more side effects and lower mortality rates, while they themselves would opt for treatments with less side effects but a higher chance of mortality.
Peter Ubel, a professor at Duke, said physicians tend to become emotionally involved when envisioning potentially uncomfortable side effects they would have to live with themselves, but are able to push aside that feeling for patients, leading them to primarily prescribe treatments that reduce the chance of death. Plus, those treatments or more likely to be covered by a health insurance provider.
"When making recommendations to patients, physicians can push aside any emotions that would lead them astray. But those emotions may loom large when a doctor is deciding for him or herself," Ubel said.
Sometimes doctors may even prescribe supposed medications simply for a patient's state-of-mind. A 2008 study from the U.S. National Institutes of Health found that an alarming percentage of doctors will regularly give patients placebo treatments, even though the practice is not approved by the American Medical Association.
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