The Wall Street Journal, April 12, 2011
Doctors weigh treatment options differently when they are deciding for themselves and when they are treating patients, according to a new study. Doctors were more likely to opt for treatments with a higher chance of death—but lower risk of serious side effects—for themselves than for their patients in a survey of 940 primary-care physicians evaluating one of two hypothetical medical scenarios. The results suggest that the "act of making a recommendation changes the psychological processes influencing their decisions," write the authors, from Duke University and the University of Michigan. It also means patients should be sure their physicians understand their values and should ask their doctors about the reasons behind their recommendations, says physician Peter Ubel, a study author and professor at Duke's Fuqua School of Business and Sanford School of Public Policy.