Reminder: Your doctors are human too

My husband gave me a king-sized Snickers bar. I refused to eat it, because it just seemed so big. He pointed out how I’d eaten two bags of mini-Snickers the week before.

His point?

I don’t always make the best decisions.

But I’m not going to beat myself up, because I recently learned about the science of human decision-making. And every human brain — no matter how smart and sophisticated — is prone to making certain types of errors. It’s science!

I share this with you to remind you that your doctor is human. Doctors are super-smart people. And they’re bound by the same brain science we are. Their brains also take short cuts. They are prone to making wrong decisions.

Here’s an example. Bob goes to the emergency department during flu season with vomiting and abdominal pain. Because Dr. Z has diagnosed six patients already this evening, he fails to consider some other important facts about Bob. Sadly, Bob doesn’t get better. And two days later, he’s back in the emergency department being diagnosed correctly with appendicitis.

I’m sure you can think of many examples in your own life where you ignored one set of information because another set of information confirmed your gut instinct.

I share this with you today as a reminder: Your doctors are humans, too. They do their best. But they can make mistakes. Autoimmune diseases like lupus are complex. Many of us have overlapping diagnoses. Our symptoms masquerade as other illnesses.

This is why you have to advocate for yourself. I know, it’s hard. It doesn’t come easily to me. But when something is wrong, you have to keep pushing forward. This could mean asking for a second opinion. Or demanding to be seen this week, not next month. You have to be honest and forthcoming with your doctors, and if you’re feeling dismissed or disrespected, find another doctor. Also, learn as much as you can about your diagnoses. Autoimmune conditions are poorly understood, even within the medical community.

Doctors are just as prone to making a bad call as any of us. So if you do one thing for yourself this year, I hope it’s this: Learn how to be a better advocate for your own health.

Here’s a great article with practical tips:


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