We all want to think our loved one’s doctors are infallible. We’d like to think our loved one’s doctors know everything there is to know about treating our loved one’s particular conditions. Yet the truth is, at some point in time the doctor has to learn by doing.

Yes, doctors endure intensive education and rigorous training, but there is a world of difference between textbook learning and the unpredictability of real-life practice. Even established professionals can go an entire career without treating many conditions firsthand.

This doesn’t mean your loved one should avoid visiting his or her doctor or you should be fearful about the quality of care your loved one will receive.

As I explain in my gripping, fictionalized memoir, Death on the Learning Curve, it’s important that you regard your loved one’s doctor as a friendly advocate for your loved one’s health and well-being. However, you should never be a passive spectator when treatment, medication, or surgery is proposed.

It’s Your Loved One’s Health on the Line & You Need to be Engaged in the Process.

Anytime your child experiences a health problem, be prepared to actively participate in the decision-making process. You should be ready to ask questions—not to be confrontational, but to become fully informed.

Here’s My Top 7 Questions to Ask Your Loved One’s Doctor Before Accepting Any Kind of Medical Treatment:

1. How long have you been in practice?

2. What is your experience in treating this condition?

3. What are the treatment options, and what other options are available that you or the health plan is not offering? If you don’t understand the doctor’s basic explanation of your loved one’s condition and treatment, then by all means ask him or her for more information.

4. What are the possible complications of the proposed treatments or surgeries? If there are any complications, how will you correct the problem?

5. Aside from your own partners, whom would you go to for treatment if you had this condition?

6. Are you personally going to perform the surgery? Will others assist and participate in a major way?

7. Can I ask your bookkeeper what my financial responsibility will be? (You need to know in advance…and don’t be afraid to negotiate!)

The above questions may seem basic to you. However, they are very important questions that will help you get a better sense of whether your loved one’s doctor is someone you truly want as your partner in assisting your loved one back to wellness.

Inappropriate Questions or Behavior

Notice I did not include the question: how many times have you been sued? We’ve all heard horror stories, but it is less than useful to ask your doctor how many times he or she has been sued. In today’s cultural climate, most doctors have been sued more than once, especially the good ones!

Inappropriate actions and questions, however well intentioned, can actually undermine your loved one’s treatment. By recognizing in advance when you are coping with the stresses and fears that go hand-in-hand with serious medical diagnoses, you can avoid compromising the crucial doctor-patient relationship.

Your Loved One’s Health Bottom Line

Medical crises are frightening and patients and their guardians can often feel overwhelmed. But by taking the responsibility to actively participate in the decision-making process and actually work with your loved one’s doctor for their own highest good, you can dispel your fears. This will allow you and the doctor to focus on the ultimate goal: returning your loved one to wellness.

Dr. Pierce Scranton


  • Renowned surgeon, Dr. Pierce Scranton, knows that hiding among the sterile scrubs and gleaming instruments of an operating room are split-second life-and-death decisions, deep ethical questions, personality conflicts, and horrors when simple procedures go terribly wrong. To discover why you must be actively engaged in your loved one’s medical treatment process, get Dr. Scranton’s latest book, "Death on the Learning Curve."