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When Patients Choose Risk

Life is risky, and every day we are all exposed to some amount of danger. While most people don’t ever want to increase their risks in life, many medical patients often choose to take really shocking risks when there is a chance they will improve their terminal condition, lose weight, or even cure acne. It is pretty surprising how frequently people put their lives in danger with in order to help themselves with both small and large conditions. So what types of procedures are patients risking their lives for?

Certain risks that patients take when they are doing procedures or choosing certain drug treatments can be pretty minor, such as when a person develops an increased sensitivity to the sun. However, other risks are great, and consequences of treatment can be pretty severe. In-vitro fertilization, for example, is one of the riskiest moves that women are lining up to make in the modern era. Of course, there are many benefits of the fertilization if it works, but the negative consequences of fertilization gone wrong are well documented and risks include: multiple births and infant mortality of one or more of the fetuses, kidney and urinary tract complications, bleeding of the uterus, and ovarian hyper stimulation which is related to a whole host of further complications.

Many times people take health risks with their medications without really noticing that they are doing so, such as in the case of many over the counter drugs. Perhaps you have seen those commercials where commonly used over the counter drugs are advertised as improving your quality of life, but at the end of the commercial, possible side effects are listed, often including some pretty gruesome ones like blood clots, strokes, and internal bleeding. One example of this type of risky medication is birth control. Many women take hormonal birth control to prevent pregnancy, deal with hormonal imbalances, or to treat endometriosis and other ailments. However, no birth control is totally safe. Most modern women still choose to take birth control anyways for medical and lifestyle reasons.

The greater the need for treatment, the greater the risk the patient is often willing to choose. For people who have end stage terminal cancer, the risks might be great, but so are the consequences of not choosing to take a risk. Many cancer patients opt for end of life palliative radiation therapy, which in a now famous German study has been shown to increase pain and suffering for many patients instead of decrease it. Patients at end of life often opt for even riskier treatments in an attempt to create more comfort for themselves during their final days, because of a hope that something might work after all, or because there are just not many options left for treatment besides the extreme.

In each case of risk taking patients, many well-counseled patients still choose to accept the level of risk they find right for their situation. Even though patients are not able to try new drugs until they are approved and passed by the FDA, they might be able to benefit from them. Even “approved” drugs are not necessarily safe, and patients choose to increase their risk when they decide to accept or pursue drug treatments. Many would like to be able to try new drugs sooner, before they have passed approval. It is up to the patient what risks they are comfortable choosing, and giving them access to drugs earlier on would allow them even more options and more control over their health. Some of those risks could even save lives.

Byline:  John Thames is a health writer and lover of all things healthy which is why he writes on behalf of Aztec Fungus Fighter.