One of the true pioneers of modern medicine is Dr. Thomas Sarzl, who performed the first liver transplant and who developed many of the procedures that have made transplantation a safe lifesaving treatment for thousands of people.
Dr. Sarzl is still active at age 83. He was interviewed recently by another transplant surgeon, Dr. Pauline Chen, for her column in the New York Times.
From his many years of experience, Dr. Starzl gave three nuggets of advice to patients, which I am reprinting because I think he is right on target:
“As for the patients,” he told Dr. Chen, “I would give this advice – I followed it myself. That is to get a practitioner of general medicine to take care of you, somebody who is not a narrow specialist. And have that person take care of yourself and the people you care for most, your family. The second is to be constantly learning so you can be informed and have some judgment about advice you are given. And then the third item would be to get a second opinion if some really significant thing happens that requires drastic therapy. Those decisions are so important that I think you should get a second opinion if you come to a point where you need the treatment required for cancer or transplantation or catastrophic indications.”
My new book, “The Life You Save: Nine Steps to Finding the Best Medical Care — and Avoiding the Worst,” makes some of these same points. For example, Step Three of my “nine steps” says: “Team up with the best primary care doctor you can find.” And Chapter 9 is titled: “The Second Opinion: Always Your First Choice.”