Wondering how to give solicited medical advice

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?


6 Responses to Wondering how to give solicited medical advice

  1. A tough one. I would start her off with the basics in order not to freak her out. As for dealing with the horrors of the medical community, maybe say something really specific like “Remember to ask for tests A, B, and C, and also remember you always have to be your own advocate.” Then maybe tell her to keep you updated and that you are there for her if she wants to talk about her feelings and experiences with her treatment. Maybe not that particular wording, but something along those lines… I’m sure you can come up with something better. I think that way she will experience the medical system for herself rather than you telling her how things are, and she will know she has a sympathetic person to talk to.

  2. Lorna says:

    Well! This had me thinking…….. So at half one in the morning here goes.
    I think you can be honest, we are old hands and have experienced most things good and bad. I would give her the good advice you know, help her to write questions of things that would be useful to ask the Doctor, as well as the best blood tests. Also tell her to smile sweetly and say how she feels and briefly why she knows all the info eg. I had a friend who really suffered and I am worried that will happen to me. A lot of doctors don’t like the patient knowing lots, so tell her to be diplomatic.
    I can’t believe with all the stories in the papers and on TV that she hasn’t got some inkling how bad or good things can be in the health service. I think you are worrying a bit, so don’t, she obviously came to you for advice so be yourself and go for it,
    Night, night
    Lorna x

    • chronicrants says:

      Ooh, good point about being diplomatic, Lorna! That’s so ingrained for me that I forget it’s a new thing for others. As for the info in the news, I think that it gets different kinds of coverage over here than it does for you. What we see is how many people have recently gotten coverage under the new system, how many people do and don’t like the system according to polls, and other information that’s completely useless when it comes to actually curing our own personal ailments. Plus, not everyone follows the news anyway. Thanks for the advice 🙂

  3. I like Lorna’s advice. Also just saw this and thought of your post: https://twitter.com/thyroidmary/status/460252065038876672
    Not sure if you had already seen it.

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