A top expert on decision making explains why it’s so hard to make good choices about your health, and explains what you and your doctor can do to make better ones.
Medicine used to be a paternalistic affair: a doctor’s job was to make all the decisions, and a patient’s job was to obey them. But technological, economic, and cultural changes over the last century have given us unprecedented control over our own healthcare. We have been turned into healthcare consumers, expected to work with doctors on complicated medical decisions.
But just how capable are we of making those decisions? Talya Miron-Shatz is an expert in the psychology of risk and decision-making. She points out that medical decisions, whether about undergoing chemotherapy or treating a sprained ankle, are among the most difficult choices we ever make. They are personal and often require us to act quickly. The doctors we rely on are under pressure to make money for hospitals and pharmaceutical companies. And even if they have your best interests at heart, they often simply don’t know enough about us, nor do they have the time to learn.
The decisions we make about our health are riddled with psychological traps. As a result, we are likely to misuse medication, fall for pseudoscientific cure-alls, undergo needless procedures, and avoid the doctor when we should be getting help. If you need further proof, look no further than the coronavirus pandemic, in which responses from Americans have ranged from ignorance, to confusion, to outright defiance over the simple choice of wearing a mask.
Your Life Depends on It offers an unsparing yet sympathetic diagnosis of the ways of thinking that lead to bad medical choices, shines a light on how the medical system fails and sometimes even capitalizes on patients’ ignorance, and maps a new model for creating effective doctor-patient relationships. And ultimately, these insights give us a better way of thinking about a question that extends beyond medicine: What’s the best way to make important decisions when it isn’t possible to know all the facts?
Your Life Depends on It offers a new take on the science of making good decisions, where it will build on the success of books like Thinking, Fast and Slow and Nudge. But while most books in this space are happy to talk about relatively mundane topics like clothing sales or traffic patterns, this bookis a vital guide to the choices that matter most, the choices your life depends on.
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