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Kaleidoscope of the Heart: Sometimes it's good to trust others to make a decision for you

Rika Kayama (Mainichi)

I recently went to my hair salon for the first time in a while. I've been going to this one for many years. Although I've always kept the same hairstyle, I asked the hairdresser this time, "I want to change it up a bit, but what kind of style seems nice?" They responded cheerfully, "Please leave it to us!"

    In an attempt to stop providing medical care guided solely by doctors' discretion, hospitals have of late taken to thoroughly explaining everything and anything to patients, and mapping out the course of medical treatment with them while listening to their requests. It's outdated now for doctors to act as they did in the past with a "keep quiet and leave it to me" kind of attitude while they do examinations and treatments as they see fit. I also provide explanations on the efficacy and side effects of medicine while as much as possible showing examination data to patients. Oftentimes, the patients themselves ultimately decide on the direction of their treatment.

    However, I'm occasionally told things like, "I don't think I understood it well. I'd like you to make the decision." At times like these, I try to explain the situation once more in a way that's easy to understand, and urge them to make the decision together with me. But, I also think to myself, "It must be tough to decide everything for yourself on your own." I also might ask my doctor to decide for me in the same way if I were placed in the same situation.

    Since I had just been thinking about these things, the hairdresser's words felt somewhat comforting. Although I'd usually answer, "Please wait a second. Could you explain a bit more about how you're going to cut my hair," on this occasion, I said, "I'll leave it to you then. Please arrange my hair in a style and color that you think will suit me best," and stayed put while keeping quiet. I was able to relax, thinking, "Oh, it's not so bad to leave the decision-making to those whom I can trust once in a while."

    Of course, this does not mean that doctors in the medical field can go about saying, "In any case please leave it to me," at all times. Health care efforts to offer as thorough explanations as possible and have patients think and make decisions together with experts will remain unchanged. But, it may be a good idea to sometimes tell those who you've known for a long time something along the lines of, "Why don't we start rehabilitation soon, and have you return to your workplace sometime around next month. Please leave it to us; it's going to be OK." There may be some people who hear those words and feel at ease, thinking, "All right, I'll leave it to you."

    My haircut was over as I was thinking about how it's nice sometimes to trust others with making the decision. My hair turned out a bit different from what I had envisioned, and it was refreshing even for me. Leaving decisions in the hands of others is indeed not bad at all.

    (By Rika Kayama, psychiatrist)

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