"Most people are not aware of their medical rights. And what you don't know can hurt you....Doctors must provide you with complete information about your condition, including diagnosis and prognosis. If the doctor fails to do soand especially if that failure results in additional medical, financial or personal problemsyou have the right to sue him for malpractice. (44)
"Most people assume that once they are hospitalized, they can only leave the hospital when given permission to do so...The hospital isn't a prison and the doctor isn't your jailer. In fact, if they try to keep you there against your will, you have the right to sue them for false imprisonment. If a hospital administrator tells you that you can't leave until you've paid your bill, don't believe him. You can leave any time you want. Here's another assumption related to hospitals: you have to submit to examination by all medical personnelinterns, residents, medical studentswho come into your room. You can refuse to be a training device for future doctors. In fact, you can say no to any order, whether you're in the hospital or in the doctor's office. Remember, it's your body; you have not donated it to science. Unless you give your permission, no one can do anything to you." (45)
"Informed consent is a two-step process, in which the physician is supposed to provide information about a medical condition and the treatment he proposes, and the informed patient is supposed to give (or withhold) consent. Ideally, the consent form serves as a reminder or summary of information already understood by the patient....However, many doctors are too busy to take the time to fully explain, so they give patients reading material on the subject. Many patients lack the education and/or are under such stress from the situation, that they are unable to understand either what is said or what is given to them to read. In a medical situation requiring consent, the patient should have a basic understanding of the following points:
The diagnosis or nature of the medical problem.
The purpose of the proposed procedure or treatment.
The significant risks involved in the procedure and the likely consequences and side effects.
The expected benefits of the procedure and the likelihood of success.
The nature of the procedure, including its length, discomforts, preparations required on the part of the patient and the expected recovery period.
Reasonable alternative methods of managing the problem, including no treatment and and the pros and cons of each." (46)
Do not hesitate to get a second opinion if you have been told you need major surgery or any treatment or test that could be risky, or if you have been told you have a potentially fatal disease/condition.
"If you are considering consulting a new health care professional, check that person out before you visit his office....If you have been harmed or suspect quackery or health fraud, write to the National Council Against Health Fraud, Victim Redress Committee, 3251 Broadway, Kansas City, MO 64111." (47)
ASK QUESTIONS! If you know ahead of time that there will be tests/treatments discussed, make a list of questions and take it with you, along with a list of symptoms and problems, so you won't forget what you want to say. If you don't know ahead of time, try to stay calm and keep your brain in gear. Don't just accept what is being said to you; ask if the tests are really necessary and if there are any risks. Ask how the test is being done and how you need to prepare for it. Make sure you know if your insurance covers the testsome tests cost hundreds of dollars. If you are given a prescription, ask what the side effects areall drugs have side effects. Be sure you understand the dosage and what the medicine is for. Ask what will happen to you if you don't take it.
There are alternative forms of medical treatment available to you also. "Most of the public debate over health care reform and financing relates to the established medical system....yet a huge number of Americans are turning away from conventional medical care to try other approaches. Many of these alternative pathways have roots that antedate modern establishment medicine by centuries. Entire civilizations in the East, in Africa, and in America use and have faith in forms of treatment that are effective in ways that American medicine ignores, to its own detriment. Thousands of practitioners study and believe in a variety of approaches and they have millions of satisfied patients." (48)
These alternative approaches include diet, vitamin therapy, herbal therapy, aromatherapy, acupressure, acupuncture, chiropractic, homeopathy, reflexology, massage therapy, hydrotherapy, yoga, meditation and naturopathy. Some of these treatments are covered by insurance, but, more often they are not, which makes it financially prohibitive for many patients to utilize anything other than standard medical treatments.
"Medical decisions always rest on somebody's value judgment. If you are aware and educated, the values will be yours; if not, they will be the values of othersgood people, but strangers. Whether you will be hospitalized or medicated; should an operation be performed and, if so, which one; will your mother be given CPR; can a bed be found for your child, experimental drugs for your lover, or a transplant for your uncle: these judgments are based as much on values as on medical knowledge and skill. But whose? The impersonal policies of institutionshospitals, insurers, courts; the flesh-and-blood individual values shared among you and your family; the personal values of your doctors and nurses? Who, ultimately, will prevailyou or somebody else? (49)
"Technology, legality and cost containment. Together they have forever changed the ground rules for how you are treated when you are sick. Together, they have made doctors' offices, hospitals and clinics vastly different places from the comfortable world of solace and succor most of us envision. Amid all this complexity, in most places, it is still true that if you don't stand up for your own values and rights, nobody else will." (50)
"The single best hope for health promotion, disease prevention and extending the years of independent, healthy living lies in ourselves and our behavior. As a culture and as a community, we need to make tobacco, alcohol and illegal drugs as difficult to obtain as possible, especially for children. Those who are addicted to them and abuse them fill our emergency rooms and hospital beds. They spawn mental and physical illness not only among themselves, but among others, ranging from family and friends to victims of their crimes and reckless conduct. Violence, poverty, environmental conditions such as lead poisoning and air pollution, and unsafe sex crank up the speed of health care spending....With our vastly increased knowledge of what constitutes healthy diet, laws relating to military rations and school lunch and breakfast programs should require that meals be low in fat and high in fiber and protein....We must deliver the message that healthy habits such as a sound diet and regular exercise can offer years of additional independence and vibrant living. For each of us, young or old, black or white, poor or rich, the message should be to take personal responsibility....for our own health and future." (51)
Check your library for videos available on teen health issues, such as smoking, drinking, STD's, AIDS, nutrition, etc. Also see the list of suggested videos at the end of the unit. If you plan on showing several, they could be scattered out through the unit as relevant. The purpose is to emphasize the responsibility each person has for his own health.