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7 Ways to Get Clearer Answers From Your Doctor

How to ask for information in plain English and give truly informed consent

By Denise Logeland and SCAN Foundation

Two physicians made a confession in The New York Times recently: “Over your lifetime of seeing us, we have trained you that we will look impatient and concerned if you say you didn’t understand something, or if you have a lot of questions. After all, we’re busy and we have other patients to see. Shame on us,” added Dr. Mikkael Sekeres and Dr. Timothy D. Gilligan, both from the Cleveland Clinic, in their essay.

Their point: Doctors ask patients to give consent for procedures, but they often don’t give patients enough chance to understand their own health situation or to carefully weigh a treatment decision.

One way to clear the fog when details are fuzzy or overwhelming: “Ask for best-case, worst-case, and most-likely scenarios, along with the chance of each one occurring,” they write.

Read Sekeres’ and Gilligan’s essay here, including six more tips for getting past jargon, absorbing information at your own pace, and keeping a big-picture perspective on your choices.


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Denise Logeland is a writer and editor in Minneapolis who has covered business, health and health care. She is the author of Next Avenue's ebook, 10 Things Every Family Should Know: Aging With Dignity and Independence. Read More
By SCAN Foundation
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