Would you pay for a risky treatment, or play it safe?

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If it were up to you, would you take risks with your health? Or with the course of treatment you're paying for?

Most likely not, according to a new study of 216 patients with arthritis and other similar diseases. The study's researchers tested patients' willingness to take a hypothetical "new" drug that carried important benefits but also a small risk of serious side effects.

And when push came to shove, the study participants weren't willing to gamble when given the decision to make all their own health care choices. Side effects, the study says, were the most significant factor.


The complete findings, published in the journal Arthritis Care & Research, could shape doctor-patient relationships and affect how much stock a doctor places in a patent's wishes and ultimately the care a patient receives and pays for.

This risk aversion could also affect the price tag for health care, since it could lead to doctors not offering patients costly experimental treatments due to decreased demand.

Even though you may be less likely to take a chance, being involved in deciding your treatment plan can increase the odds you'll recover, since studies have found proactive patients recover better. But few studies have previously examined how decision making affects health outcomes.

Doctors worry that fears of a drug's potential side effects, especially those that carry low risks, could dissuade patients from seeking or accepting treatment. That could wind up costing double, triple or more, in the long run. Not treating something in the early stages -- even if it's with a "risky" therapy -- could lead to costly alternatives. And there's no guarantee those alternatives won't carry similar "risks," too.

Sound off: If faced with the option, would you want to make your health care decisions? Would you be willing to take risks, or do you think medical decisions are best left to those with a medical degree? Would you pay for a risky procedure if it promised a high success rate?

Gina Roberts-Grey is a freelance writer specializing in health, celebrity and consumer issues.
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