What Doctors Cannot Tell You on Thursday's Access Utah

Jul 5, 2012

Kevin Jones is a doctor at the Huntsman Cancer Institute and the University of Utah and in his new book, "What Doctors Cannot Tell You: Clarity, Confidence, and Uncertainty in Medicine,"  he talks about the gray in medicinal knowledge and communication with patients.  Dr. Jones will discuss the way patients can take charge of their medical care and create an open dialogue with doctors by asking questions and making decisions as a team.  

Few communications are more fraught than those between physicians and patients, no matter on which side of the white coat you find yourself. 
But I am not your physician here. 
So perhaps, here, I can tell you what your doctor can’t tell you. 
And why he can’t. 
I will tell you about a physician who was literally run out of town for daring to suggest that medicine ought to keep track of results. 
I will introduce you to a surgeon who dared not to operate. 
I will explain how the muddle of disease and diagnosis and fuzzy biology sometimes creates a disconnect between doing right and getting it right. 
I will tell you the story of a noble woman who took her chances and lost and another story of a frightened man who could not take a chance, but still lost. 
You will meet a mother whose heart was breaking because her daughter had not yet died. 
These are not, I want to emphasize, extraordinary cases. 
These are not stories about beating the odds. 
This is a book about ordinary cases and how extraordinarily difficult it is to be certain about the odds in the first place. 
Here you will witness the rules of engagement and the space in which medical decisions are made. 
What you won’t see here: the brand of “differential diagnostics” as practiced by Hugh Laurie on the House TV series. That’s because House is not, as they say, based on a true story. On the contrary, it’s total fiction. A patient may hear a diagnosis from a single doctor, but rarely has that doctor arrived at the diagnosis alone. Diagnosis is a team sport. And like other team sports, it requires at least a modest ability to play well with others. 
The lone genius with the repellent personality and a knack for plucking the right answer from the heavens --- that doctor doesn’t exist. Here, we are dealing with people. On both sides of the space where decisions are made. 
So the point of these stories isn’t to encourage you to marvel at the skill of the people in the white coats. It’s to help you learn to talk to your physician, how to understand what she or he says. And then it’s to help you to ask your physician to invite you more fully into that privileged space, not as subject alone, but as the interested party.

Dr. Kevin Jones will give a presentation at the King’s English Bookshop in Salt Lake City on July 11.  For questions to ask, information about the conversation between patient and doctor, visit his website.