Ask Your Doctor if This Post is Right for You

Back in February I wrote about Natrel Baboo, a product that caused me rather a lot of aggravation one day in the grocery store. Right around the same time that I wrote about it, the company that sells the product issued a press release that contained this line:

As a mom, the first thing you’re going to do when you hear about Baboo is call up your doctor or pediatrician…

When I read that, my first response was, “No, no, I would not call up my doctor to talk about a product that I saw in the grocery store.” Because, really, I wouldn’t. If I’m buying over-the-counter medication for myself or my children I may speak with a pharmacist about it before I buy it, but even then I wouldn’t call up my doctor. In fact, I’m pretty sure my doctor would not even take that kind of call. And if she did, it might not be for the better. I appreciate that my doctor is generally on time with her appointments, and I can only imagine that if all of her patients were calling her up to get her take on Natrel Baboo and chia seeds and multivitamins and saline nose drops that it might put her off her schedule a bit.

As I think about it, I can think of many, many situations where we’re urged to ask our doctor about a particular product. If you’re pregnant or breastfeeding, especially, you’re supposed to ask your doctor before you so much as choose a particular brand of toilet paper. Most of the time, I think that these warnings are meant to cover someone’s butt. By stating that you should ask your doctor, it takes the onus off the seller to guarantee that something is safe for you. Instead, the responsibility falls back to the doctor, who one presumes has nothing better to do than clear your decision to opt for two-ply instead of three-ply for your wiping needs.

From time to time I listen to White Coat, Black Art on CBC Radio, which is sort of like Canada’s NPR. The show aims to discuss medical issues from the doctor’s perspective. On one of the episodes, there were a number of doctors talking about “the list”. This is when a patient comes to them for one reason, and then at the end of the appointment pulls out a list with a whole bunch of questions that have nothing to do with whatever else they’ve discussed. The patients save the questions up, because they’re not that pressing. Once they’re at the doctor’s office, though, they decide to cover off everything at once. The problem with this is that, just like a doctor who spends all day fielding phone calls, a doctor who is suddenly confronted with a dozen questions is thrown off schedule.

The conclusion that the doctors on the show reached was that if you have multiple medical issues, or even just a whole lot of questions, you need multiple medical appointments to cover them off. They suggest letting the receptionist know this when you’re booking, so that the right amount of time is set aside for you. It keeps everyone on schedule, which is something that helps you as a patient, as well. No one likes sitting around for an hour because a doctor is behind. This suggests to me that doctors themselves are maybe not so game for fielding dozens of lifestyle questions from their patients, just because someone else is trying to avoid liability.

For myself, though, what it really comes down to is choosing to take charge of my own life. I believe that I am fully competent when it comes to making basic decisions for my own health, and that of my family. Obviously, if my kids or I are actually in need of medical care, I seek it out. I also understand that sometimes you have to go to the doctor when you’re not sick, which is why I’m up-to-date on my pap smears. But when it comes to living my life on a day-to-day basis, I don’t believe a medical opinion is required. I believe that I can be trusted to make good decisions for my family, and so I do. No phone calls to my doctor or pediatrician required.

What about you? How do you decide whether to discuss something with your doctor? I’d love to hear your thoughts!

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    Comments

    1. re: the list

      As a past practitioner, it’s not that The List throws you off schedule; The List is usually a collection of unrelated queries which decreases a clinician’s ability to diagnose and thus treat effectively. If you go in to your medical practitioner with one ailment then the diagnostic pathway will follow that one problem-solving query, with your trained professional using their trained powers of deductive analysis to get to the bottom of your illness. There is a method to diagnosis after all. What they are also trained in is listening out for allied symptoms which might reveal underlying complications or shed new light on a confusing condition. What they are not to be used for however, is a laundry-list of everything currently happening in your life – it does throw them off the scent, so to speak. The List scrambles your clinical brain until all you want is for the patient/patient’s owner to shut up so you can think straight. Clinicians are aware though, that often the last question in the session is frequently the most important observation a patient will throw at them – the “oh and i’ve been feeling a bit of stiffness in my chest” throw-away remark which rings the old myocardial infarction alarm bells, or the “she’s got a hell of thirst these days too” which peaks the weight loss or recently-in-oestrus question. Having sat on both sides of the examination table though, it is difficult to let go of the laundry list mentality cos no one likes to go to the doctor frequently.

      And no, I don’t think (m)any doctors are qualified to give infant nutrition advice on breastfeeding.
      pomomama’s last post … midlife monday: words words wordsMy Profile

    2. I know, it’s frustrating. We’re not supposed to exercise, put our babies down for a nap, or eat vegetables without asking the doctor if it’s right for us. The worst is when they tell me to ask my pediatrician about discipline or lifestyle issues that my child has. What the heck do they know about discipline, or cosleeping, or potty training? Only what your average guy on the street knows … parenting tips are no part of their medical training. I’m definitely not expecting my pediatrician to know what is going to work best for MY child. On that topic, I’m the expert, not them. So I’m not wasting their time trying to get them to make my decisions for me.
      Sheila’s last post … Tell me why …My Profile

    3. Has anyone tried to “call a doctor” lately? I can barely get an appointment and when I do, it better be good!
      harriet Fancott’s last post … Talking about difficult informationMy Profile

      • EXACTLY. The closest thing I’ve done to calling a doctor in the last 20 years is paging my midwives when I went into labour. Not exactly in the same sphere as, “So, I was at the grocery store today …”

    4. THIS all the way:

      “For myself, though, what it really comes down to is choosing to take charge of my own life. I believe that I am fully competent when it comes to making basic decisions for my own health, and that of my family. Obviously, if my kids or I are actually in need of medical care, I seek it out. I also understand that sometimes you have to go to the doctor when you’re not sick, which is why I’m up-to-date on my pap smears. But when it comes to living my life on a day-to-day basis, I don’t believe a medical opinion is required. I believe that I can be trusted to make good decisions for my family, and so I do.”

      As someone who’s been pregnant and/or breastfeeding for nearly four years straight now, if I called or visited my doctor to ask about everything I ate, drank, or came into contact with, I would practically live at her office. Chamomile tea? Ask your doctor! Chocolate? Ask your doctor! It’s just ridiculous. And like you, I fully trust myself to make my own health decisions. I also believe that a lot of those pregnancy/nursing warnings are just there to cover the company’s butt.
      Cate’s last post … Three-Grain BreadMy Profile

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