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Being Your Own Doctor

The biohacking community has grown, and detailed clinical information is readily available. And yet, the practice of medicine, the art of medicine, is why you can’t be your doctor.

Many of us physicians try to be our own doctors and we fail. We miss something obvious or go down the wrong path. And most importantly, we don’t believe in our own treatment decisions, whether consciously or otherwise.

You can’t treat yourself because you cannot objectively determine if the treatment is working or not. We know this; we’ve tried it.

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The Patient-Doctor Relationship

Hopefully, you’ll never have to deal with an acute health situation, and you’ll never deal with a chronic one. Statistics, however, seem to show otherwise, from a peritonsillar abscess to thrombosed hemorrhoids to ulcerative colitis.

Should you drain the abscess or start on IV antibiotics and steroids? Do the thrombosed hemorrhoids need to be lanced? Should you initiate a dietary regimen, or is it time for biologics for the UC?

These questions don’t have an answer in any book or journal article. They result from getting to know the patient, from trial and error, and from having multiple conversations over multiple visits.

As physicians, we have to extract ourselves and our biases and look at the patient and the disease objectively to be able to come up with solid treatment protocols. You can’t do that for yourself because you’ll lose the objectivity.

Objectivity Matters

Being objective means that you don’t get dissuaded or confused by a distracting sign or symptom. When one treatment protocol fails, it might just need more time to work or the patient isn’t telling you all of their symptoms.

Sometimes, it’s clear that the patient’s abscess is improving quite a bit, but they report the pain and size is worse. It’s not until you view the abscess and reexamine it that you realize their fears or doubts taint their perception. The abscess, fortunately, is doing just fine; let the treatment resume.

You can’t diagnose yourself because you are biased to begin with; you would never believe it’s cancer or you never would imagine this amount of pain could be caused by something really simple.

We Don’t Know As Much As We Think

As doctors, we think we are quite intelligent; it’s how we were raised. Once we try to deal with our own health issues, once we try to be our own doctors, we realize how little we know.

Not only is it often necessary to see multiple specialists but sometimes it’s necessary to get multiple opinions in the same specialty.

A primary care physician is often the best person to coordinate these consults. Perhaps the surgeon recommends surgery, and the radiation oncologist recommends radiation, but only you and your PCP can decide what is truly right for you.

Follow-Up Is Important

When we are dealing with a certain health issue day in and day out, we lose the perspective of time. We don’t notice how we are progressing, we can’t interpret our symptom journal, and we think we tried something properly when we just gave it the old college try.

Don’t treat yourself even if you can. Mail-order pharmacies are available, and you can get everything from opioids to antibiotics to chemotherapeutics, but that doesn’t mean you should.

In fact, the best doctors are those who know when not to prescribe, when not to cut, when not to intervene.

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