How to Be a Smart Patient | Reader's Digest

How to Be a Smart Patient

An insider's guide to getting the best medical treatment, from "You: The Smart Patient: An Insider's Handbook for Getting the Best Treatment," by Michael F. Roizen, M.D., and Mehmet C. Oz, M.D.

By Michael F. Roizen | MD from Reader's Digest

10. Meet the doc behind the scenes. If you’re having surgery in a hospital, you need to meet the anesthesiologist face-to-face and give him some dirt on you, such as the last time you had general anesthesia, exactly how much you drink, what drugs you use and how often. People who recreate with substances can keep their habit hidden from lots of people, but they’d better be up-front with the anesthesiologist, since narcotics and other drugs can increase the amount of anesthesia needed, and you don’t want to be wide-awake when the surgeon asks for the knife. The anesthesiologist also needs to know how physically fit you are, any allergies you have, and (for the umpteenth time of your hospital stay) every medication, herbal remedy and supplement you take. What about those nightmarish stories you’ve heard about patients waking up during surgery? It’s rare, but it happens. Talk to your anesthesiologist about this, and ask if a medical device that monitors wakefulness is available and should be used.

11. Customize your living will. The two words living will evoked about as much emotion as life insurance did not long ago. But that was before Terri Schiavo captured the country’s attention in 2005. Living wills became a vogue subject, even among people under 40. Yet there’s no one-size-fits-all living will. If things should take a particularly unhappy course and you can’t speak up for yourself, you can tell hospital staffers ahead of time which measures you do or do not want to receive, such as:

Artificial breathing. No, not via the services of one of the more
attractive hospital staff members, we’re afraid. Instead, you’re placed on the machine called a ventilator, which pumps air into your lungs.

Artificial feeding. If you’re unable to eat, you can be given nutrients through an IV or a tube that’s inserted into your stomach. Some of our more industrious friends have asked if they could have this procedure done just as a matter of convenience, but we tell them to slow down, take a break and eat a real meal.

Cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR). You know, the organized
theatrics you’ve seen in TV shows and movies, when a hospital team tries to revive you after your heart stops beating or you stop breathing — unless you request a do-not-resuscitate order (DNR). Unlike on television, however, there is not a 99.9% chance that you will be revived successfully and to full consciousness within five seconds by a tanned actor, but we’ll try our best.

“YOU: THE SMART PATIENT,” COPYRIGHT © 2006 BY MICHAEL F. ROIZEN, M.D., AND OZ WORKS LLC, F/S/O MEHMET C. OZ, M.D., AND JOINT COMMISSION RESOURCES, IS PUBLISHED IN PAPERBACK AT $14.95 BY FREE PRESS, 1240 AVE. OF THE AMERICAS, NEW YORK, NEW YORK 10020