This is the second in a 2-part series on Cancer Patients brought to you by guest blogger, Dr. Kevin Ryan.  Dr. Ryan graduated summa cum laude and Phi Beta Kappa from Georgetown University after early admission. He graduated Georgetown University Medical School summa cum laude AOA after a fellowship in Tumor Immunology funded by the National Institutes of Health, National Cancer institute. He is board-certified in three fields of medicine and holds an MBA. His research and publication interests include monoclonal antibodies and he was part of the team that made the first human monoclonal antibody. As a principal investigator, Dr. Ryan developed, with others, the revolutionary drug Zofran for chemotherapy-induced nausea and vomiting.

A retired heavily-decorated colonel in the USAF (ret), Dr. Ryan is also a full professor at UC Davis, and a fellow of the American College of Physicians, AMA ASCO, emeritus ASH and Intertel.

He plays piano, guitar and lives with his wife in Northern California where he is also a former columnist and, at present, a performing arts judge.

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Autonomy in the Cancer Patient

Dr. Kevin Ryan

This is the single most important word and concept the reader of my book, When Tumor is the Rumor and Cancer is the Answer, must grasp. Philosophically, it refers to the fundamental principle that all humans are independent moral agents with the personal capacity to make moral decisions and act on them. To the largest extent, life is about choice, your choices.

The word derives from the Greek autonomia, meaning “self-rule.” In modern days, autonomy most often equates with the phrase, self-determination. Individuals are autonomous when their actions are truly their own without coercion or inappropriate influence.

Sometimes when judges hand down decisions, they really hit the spot. Sometimes, they nail the beauty, power and scope of their decisions in terms most can understand.

Certainly, one would think all legal decisions are important. Patient autonomy is a core principle in western thought and law, a guiding light of our constitution and an anchoring truth in cancer patients care.

The Patient is the One with the Disease

Often in the book, you will hear me use the expression that the patient is the one with the disease.  With all the healthcare system can do to make information and access to care available, the final decision of the competent adult is theirs. That is how it should be and physicians, families, and patients must never forget it.

Listen to how beautifully American judges state this. “No right is held more sacred, or is more carefully guarded, by the common law, than the right of every individual to the possession and control of his own person, free from all restraint or interference of others, unless by clear and unquestionable authority of law [Union Pacific R. Co. vs. Botsford, 141 U.S. 250 (1891)].

Here is another ruling that clearly distils it down on the issue of medical decision-making. “Every human being of adult years and sound mind has a right to determine what is done with his own body; and a surgeon who performs an operation without his patient’s consent commits assault, for which he is liable in damages [Schloendorff vs. Society of New York Hospital, 105 N.W. 92 (1914)].

Patient autonomy is the capability and right of patients to control the course of their treatment and participate in the decision-making process.

The Patient Controls the Course of Treatment

Indeed! That is also a core guiding principle of this book. Physicians and their teams must fully inform patients to the best their and the patients’ ability to understand. Health care providers lead the patient to intelligence. However, it is the patient’s job, once lead, to think. As you will hear repeatedly, the patient is the one with the disease.

Why keep hammering this home? God gave you the gift of choice and, with enough information, the greater gift of sufficient intelligence to choose. That is exactly what this book is attempting to do; inform. That is why this section appears early on. Patients must know the power they rightfully can claim. When so empowered, they transform the pain of anxiety, or fear of the unknown, into the hero-producing powers behind fear.  This God-given set of hard-wired emotional, physical, and intellectual responses lead to wise, autonomous, personal decisions.

With an autonomous patient, we must know the players, passions, emotions, and events that the healthcare team will deal with as we move from tumor as rumor to cancer as the answer.

We’ll examine anxiety vs. fear, the persona of cancer, operational details of oncology, and your oncologist, the major ally in the fight. Then we can jump in together, arm-in-arm, with our hearts, heads, and minds aligned. Together, we learn what to do When Tumor Is the Rumor and Cancer is The Answer.

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Dr. Veronica Anderson is an MD, Functional Medicine practitioner, Homeopath. and Medical Intuitive. As a national speaker and designer of the Functional Fix and Rejuvenation Journey programs, she helps people who feel like their doctors have failed them. She advocates science-based natural, holistic, and complementary treatments to address the root cause of disease. Dr. Veronica is a highly-sought guest on national television and syndicated radio and hosts her own radio show, Wellness for the REAL World, on FOX Sports 920 AM “the Jersey” on Mondays at 7:00 pm ET.

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