Two weeks ago my latest book "Don't Let Your Doctor Kill You" was published. My goal in writing the book was two fold:
To raise awareness to the biggest offenders in our broken health care system; the overarching physician arrogance and indifference toward the patient, the greed and corruption of insurance and pharmaceutical companies, interested only in the bottom line and the dangers and dishonesty of hospitals where cover-ups of mistakes and the conspiracy of silence maim and destroy human lives every day.
To solve the health care conundrum, fix the system and survive its dysfunctionality I wrote from my experience and analyzed statistical data available in public records and medical literature. It became clear to me that to survive and even thrive in this mess we must get tough, strong and focus on our personal prevention and wellbeing.
Those concepts and their urgency were only enhanced by this month's terrible wave of terrorist attacks, first the downing of the Russian passenger jet over the Sinai, then the carnage in Paris and in Mali.
Our world is changing for the worst. We are now learning to live with the threat of terrorism poised to disrupt our daily normal lives at any moment. All you have to do is think of the citizens of Brussels, a major European city paralyzed under lockdown for days as police and soldiers search for terrorists and suicide bombers.
While debates about religion and politics rage, we the real people are learning how to continue our lives, enjoy them, raise children, go to work, create a "new normal". Our government and security forces can only protect us to a certain point. We are our own first line of defense. It's our responsibility to live without fear and create safety inside our hearts and minds. "When you see something, say something" can only work when you are confident in your own actions. Fear and intimidation will never lead to a better life for anyone nor will it serve as protection.
To make life simpler, you must apply the same rules when you get involved with the medical system. If you eliminate fear the results are better healthcare, more confidence and a stronger you.
To help you navigate these murky waters, I've chosen one of my favorite segments from the book to helpfully inspire and strengthen our resolve to never be intimidated again.
THE PATIENT'S MANIFESTO:
• I am a human being, equally worthy of respect and dignity as any doctor I may consult.
• I am an adult who can and will make my own health care decisions.
• I will no longer allow any doctor or healthcare worker to treat me like a child.
• I acknowledge that medical issues and decisions can be very scary. I will commit to putting my fear aside when I am weighing my healthcare options. I will not rush to make any decisions when I am feeling emotional, confused, or fearful.
• I will designate a reliable advocate to represent me should I feel too ill or confused to represent myself.
• I don't need to be a doctor to understand--or to be able to learn--basic and even advanced concepts about my health and health conditions for me to make informed medical choices.
• There are no stupid questions when it comes to my health. If I ask a question and get a medical jargon answer, or am treated disrespectfully, I have the right to continue to ask for explanations until I get one I can understand. If I don't I will walk out and seek help elsewhere.
• I have the right and you (the entire membership of the healthcare delivery system) have the obligation to tell me the truth and not underplay possible side-effects or dangers of pharmaceuticals, treatments, procedures or tests you advise I undergo.
• I have the right to request second and even third opinions. I will not let fear of "hurting my doctor's feelings" dissuade me from seeking them. I will also seek different perspectives.
• I have the right to refuse any medication or treatment course I believe isn't right for me.
• I understand the doctor doesn't live in my body, thus can never understand how I feel, and it is my responsibility to make the final decision about my care.
• I have the obligation to listen to my own body and--even if it's contrary to what a doctor may be telling me--the ultimate decision for my own course of care or treatment is entirely my own.
• I have the right to decide what type of care I should get or refuse care. I will never allow a doctor to intimidate or bully me ever again.
• This is my life and my body. No one else but I have the right to decide what I should do.
So let's all use the "Patient Manifesto" to find a kinder, safer new normal in healthcare and our lives in general.
Dr Erika Schwartz is an internationally recognized health and wellness expert and founder of Evolved Science, a personalized medical group with headquarters in New York City and offices in London. She is a New York Times bestselling author whose most recent book, Don't Let Your Doctor Kill You, was published in November by Post Hill Press.