Different perspectives influence he alth decisions
Faced with the choice of either agreeing to risky medical treatment or waiting out a risky medical condition, people make different choices depending on whether they are making the decision for themselves or someone else. This is according to research from the University of Michigan Medical School and the VA Ann Arbor He althcare System.
The almost 2,400 participants in the US online survey were each presented with two fictitious disease scenarios: an avian flu epidemic or a slowly progressing cancer, both of which could be treated with a risky vaccination or chemotherapy. Divided into four groups, the participants were then asked to adopt different perspectives - that of the person affected, the parent of an affected child, a doctor who is supposed to instruct his patient or a person responsible in the he alth sector who has to make decisions for a large group of people.
In the case of the fictitious bird flu epidemic, only 48 percent of the subjects chose the risky vaccination for themselves. More than 57 percent would have their own child treated. In the role of doctor, 63 percent of those surveyed would instruct a patient to be vaccinated. Almost three quarters of the study participants opted for medical treatment as he alth managers.
A similar decision-making pattern was shown in the cancer scenario: While only 60 percent of those questioned would choose chemotherapy if they were affected themselves, more than 70 percent would have their own child treated. Even in the role of doctor or person in charge, almost 70 percent of the study participants would instruct their clients for treatment.
Because the treatment, albeit risky, was statistically the better choice in each case, participants tended to make more reasonable decisions when they felt responsible for the he alth of others, explains University of Michigan physician Peter Ubel. When making decisions about one's own well-being, on the other hand, the fear of the side effects of medical therapy is often greater than the fear of the negative consequences of being passive, adds social scientist and decision-making researcher Brian Zikmund-Fisher from the University of Michigan.
In an emergency, a change of perspective can therefore help both doctor and patient to better assess the respective positions of the other and thus make an informed decision about the choice of medical treatments.