For most people, when you’re at a point in life where you need surgery, you’re not feeling exactly empowered or willing to grill your doctor on his or her exact qualifications. But you should, says—of all groups—the American College of Surgeons. Thomas Russell, the organization’s executive director and a surgeon, says, “Patients should feel free to ask their surgeon anything they want answered about the operation or the surgeon’s competency to perform it. There are no questions that should be off the table.”
In a new book to be published this month, “I Need an Operation…Now What? A Patient’s Guide to a Safe and Successful Outcome,” Dr. Russell provides patients with lists of questions for surgeons, including their success rates, how many operations they perform in a year, and whether they have any health issues of their own that would interfere with their ability to do the procedure. While he suggests using a respectful and nonconfrontational tone, he also urges patients to “size up” the surgeon’s communication skills — and avoid those who are unresponsive, distracted or rushed.