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What to Do When You Feel Your Parent Is Being Over-Treated

Experts say that as many as 40% of elective surgeries are unnecessarily performed, according to CBS News.

Additionally, people going in for a checkup have a 43% chance of having a needless medical test, according to research reported on WebMD.com.

The reasons for these high figures are numerous, and range from well-meaning doctors taking the concept of "due diligence" to an extreme, to outright fraudsters.

The problem is that, for elderly people in particular, unnecessary tests and surgeries can have dire consequences. Luckily, informed consent policies require a doctor to make sure that the patient, or whoever is making the medical decisions for the patient is comfortable with the suggested course of care.

Doctors may not always offer this information up voluntarily, and they may not know what your concerns are. So, here are some questions you can ask to help you decide whether a medical procedure is necessary or not:

  1. Why should I do it?-It's important for you to know the reason why the physician has ordered a certain test or surgical procedure. Getting a doctor to describe the logic behind his or her decision will serve to either put your mind at ease, or raise red flags about the validity of their suggestion.
  2. What other options do I have?-Sometimes there is more than one way to conduct a diagnostic test or a viable alternative to surgery. Asking a doctor about all the possibilities will allow you to make a more informed decision regarding your medical care.
  3. What's next?-Understanding the follow-up procedures and care for a particular test or procedure can help you decide whether it's worthwhile to go through with it. For example, there is a line of thought that suggests early diagnosis of prostate cancer may not always be helpful to men, because, in some instances, detectable tumors never become serious enough to have a negative health impact. In these instances, the physical and mental stress of subsequent tests and surgeries to remove the benign tumor far outweigh the benefits.
  4. What if I do it?-Every medical procedure, no matter how innocuous has possible complications. Having knowledge of these hazards and their effect on the health of an elderly person is essential to making an informed decision about a test or procedure.
  5. What if I don't do it?-While it may seem like you are playing Devil's advocate, you should ask the doctor what could happen if you don't undergo a test or have a certain procedure performed.
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