There’s a big difference between giving solicited and unsolicited medical advice. I think I’ve got a handle on giving unsolicited advice, but now a friend is asking for help and I’m not sure how to respond.
When you’re consumed with health issues, it’s easy to see them everywhere you look. I spend so much time and effort on getting enough sleep, eating the right foods, getting enough exercise, avoiding bad foods, etc., that it drives me up the wall to see people with more choices doing unhealthy things. The thing is, if the person doesn’t ask for advice, then offering it can be off-putting. They may be insulted or simply choose to ignore me. They probably aren’t ready to hear the message anyway. So I respond by posting tips to Facebook, where my family and friends can choose to read them or not. I’ll make comments that aren’t directed at them, just to get them thinking, like “Isn’t it terrible to think how many hormones people get from the animals they eat? I wish the FDA would do something about that.” I don’t badger anyone. This has been working out pretty well so far.
But when someone asks for advice, those rules go out the window. I’m back to wondering, how much is too much? If I give her too much information, will it scare her off? And can I trust my own perspective? I want to warn her that many doctors won’t run the right thyroid tests or prescribe the best medications. I know this is true. I’ve experienced it. I’ve read books about it. But if I tell her this now, before she’s found a doctor, will I be saving her from years of problems or will I be unnecessarily passing my own bias on to her?
I know that my friend needs help. She emailed me her blood test results and her symptoms yesterday. I will be honest that I can offer some good advice on some areas, but I don’t know anything about others. That’s fine. She knows that, and it won’t lower my credibility in her eyes. And she knows I’m not a doctor and won’t hold me liable for anything I suggest, so there’s no worry there. But I do see problems with her test results and her symptoms. She’s turning to me because she’s not getting great medical care. I want to help her. I just need to figure out the best way to do that.
How do you help friends who ask you for medical advice? Do you give advice or not? How much detail do you give? Do you warn them about the horrors of dealing with the medical community, or do you hold back on that? What else do you think I should consider?