Eleven questions to ask your doctor when he
Prescribes a drug for you?
William Campbell Douglass MD
This is a very informative and beneficial article by an MD that I feel everyone should read.
Many things go unsaid when you step into your doctor’s ofﬁce. Most
people usually assume that someone who would take the Hippocratic
Oath and devote his life to healing people will do right by his patients.
But while it’s true there are a lot of honest doctors in the country,
increasingly the lure of lucre or other gains causes some to resort to unethical
or irresponsible practices. Many have become involved in activities which
succeed in parting patients from their money, but leave their problems
virtually unchanged or worse than they were before.
The questions below may not be ones you feel comfortable asking
your doctor. Some of them will deal with information the doctor feels is
personal, some will seem impolite, and all of them will step on toes. But
when your health is at stake, there are certain things you have a right to
know. You should at least know the degree of your doctor’s competence,
where his loyalties lie, and whether he is giving you the most efﬁcacious
treatment for your problem.
These questions are to get you the information you need to determine whether
you are being treated hippocratically. When you have been diagnosed with a serious illness you need to know the answers to these questions. When you do, you’ll know whether you’re being treated well or just being treated expensively.
1. Are there any dangerous side effects from this drug?
There are always dangers, even if they are somewhat remote. You need
to know the worst possibilities, as Well as the best and most likely.
Remember, if something affects only 1 in 10,000 people that’s 25,000
folks in the U.S. If you have a bad reaction to a drug, that’s a reaction
rate of 100% as far as you are concerned.
2. If insurance weren’t paying for this, would you still recommend it?
The number of unnecessary tests, needless exams, non-effective
medications, unneeded surgery, etc. has jumped astronomically in this
country. Why? Because of the attitude that insurance is paying for it.
“Insurance” doesn’t pay for anything, you pay it all. (Check your next
3.When you’ve recommended this procedure for other patients, how many have
been cured? What happened n the other cases?
If two out of three times he’s recommended something, the result has
been harmful — or even of no real beneﬁt — wouldn’t you like to know ?
If a blood pressure medication, for instance, will lower your pressure
but shorten your life, shouldn’t you know that?
4. What are the possibilities l’ll improve, even if I don’t follow this recommendation?
When cancer patients get better because of alternative therapies,
medical science calls it spontaneous remission. Most doctors refuse to
acknowledge that alternative therapies have done wonders for people.
Most also dislike admitting miracles occur. But they do. Get a doctor
honest enough to admit how ignorant modern medicine is. The diagnostic
equipment at our disposal is truly miraculous but the therapy offered is
often worse than the disease.
5. How much do you pay for malpractice insurance?
This question may not sound relevant to you but, if his malpractice rate
is extremely high, it means one of two things. Either what he does is
fraught with a lot of danger and undesirable complications, such as eye
surgery and heart surgery, or he has been sued a lot and is thus rated
higher than his colleagues doing similar medicine.
6. Have you ever been sued for malpractice? What happened?
It’s easy to understand why you should ask these questions and why your
doctor may turn pale and get the shakes when you do, especially if he has
lost a case. Losing a case doesn’t always mean that the doctor was guilty
of anything, juries being generally sympathetic toward the plaintiff in
malpractice cases. But, even though malpractice cases are generally
weighted against the doctor (He never gets a jury of his peers), when he
is convicted of malpractice, he is usually guilty.
Most doctors get sued sometime during their career but some get sued
more than others. So ask him how many times he has been sued
successfully. A doctor who has been sued ten times but won all the suits
is more likely to be a competent doctor than one who has been sued only
twice but lost them both. This may sound like a truism but it is worth
saying: A doctor who wins a malpractice case is usually innocent. A
doctor who loses a case is usually guilty.
7. Are there any alternative therapies (homeopathic, natural, etc.) that have been successful with my problem? What is your opinion of them?
How open-minded is your doctor? Has he looked past the boundaries that
modern medicine says are proper? If he gives you an honest answer of “I
don’t know,” that’s ﬁne. But if he says “No, that’s just a lot of quackery,”
then you might want to get a second opinion.
8. Do you have any financial interest in the lab or hospital that will perform this work? Are you on the board, own any stock, etc.?
If he gets upset you’ve asked, that will tell you plenty. He knows how
often doctors have a built-in conﬂict of interest whether he’ll admit it
or not. A shocking number of doctors are tied in ﬁnancially to the various
services they use to make your diagnosis. This proﬁt incentive tends to
cause them to order unnecessary tests — the more they order, the more
9. Have you accepted any gifts or commissions from a drug company such as a free vacation, tickets to the symphony, etc.?
Again, he might hate you for asking, but it happens all the time. And no
doctor is going to volunteer to tell you he’s doing it. It’s not an illegal
practice or the drug companies wouldn’t risk it. But is it right and proper
for your doctor to take what amounts to a bribe even though the drug
ﬁrm assures the doctor that “there is no obligation”?
10.Would you prescribe the same treatment for a member of your family?
Have you? What happened?
This will certainly make him think twice about giving you a drug that
may cause serious side effects. I know of a case of a prominent doctor in
Florida who always recommended chemotherapy for his cancer patients.
But when his wife came down with breast cancer, he refused to let her
take chemotherapy. “This is different,” he said. Oh? Is it?
11.Do you do any research for drug companies? Are you doing any now?
Am I being used for such research?
Doctors who do clinical research, i.e., test drugs on their patients, are
extremely biased toward the drug and tend to downplay the observed
side effects. They are usually paid by the pharmaceutical company
which, the company knows, will tend to cause the investigator to want to
come up with results favorable to the drug. It’s also ﬂattering to be
chosen as an investigator and the company plays on the ego of the doctor,
thus reinforcing the bias toward the agent being tested.
You may choose not to ask your doctor these questions, but you owe it to
yourself to at least think about their implications and try (legally, and as
unobtrusively as possible) to find out the answers to them through other
Another option may be to simply leave this leaﬂet with your doctor and
tell him these are the questions you’d like to discuss with him. Then talk
about them on your next visit.
However you do it, ﬁnding the answers to these questions may mean the
difference between getting well and staying sick or, less critical, but still
important, the difference between getting your money’s worth and