The Fundamental Misunderstanding That Costs You Assets

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The Fundamental Misunderstanding That Costs You Assets

May 26, 2015

by Dan Solin

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A recent medical event involving one of my family members poignantly demonstrated the role emotions play in driving decisions. It also illustrated a fundamental misunderstanding about the decision-making process rampant among advisors.

My relative’s primary care physician recommended that she have open-heart surgery. She lives in a small town in central Massachusetts. Naturally, she was very concerned about undergoing such a life-threatening procedure.

She reached out to her son-in-law, who was qualified to advise her on medical matters. He holds a Ph.D. in molecular biology and runs a hedge fund that concentrates on life-science companies. His fund routinely retains leading cardiovascular surgeons as consultants.

He did extensive research and advised her to seek a second opinion from an experienced cardiovascular surgeon at a major medical center. If the second opinion confirmed the original diagnosis, he suggested she consider two surgical options:

  1. A “hybrid” surgery. This technique, which is performed at several major medical centers, avoids an incision that opens up the chest cavity.
  2. A minimally invasive, robotic surgery. This type of surgery is faster, minimizes recovery time and has a lower rate of infection, although it is not entirely clear whether it’s preferable to the hybrid surgery option. Because of the specialized nature of this surgery, it is primarily performed at two large medical centers.

My relative sought a second opinion as her son-in-law suggested. The second surgeon saw no need for immediate surgery and advised her to monitor her condition over the next six months.

We were all relieved by this evaluation and felt secure in the knowledge that her situation wasn’t as dire as previously indicated.

About a week after this consultation, I received a call from my relative’s son-in-law. He was incredulous. He told me his mother-in-law, my relative, had decided to go forward with the surgery immediately. I asked whether she elected for the hybrid or robotic surgery option. He told me that she rejected both and was going to have the surgery performed at her local community hospital. The local hospital did not offer either the hybrid or robotic surgical options. She would undergo a far more invasive procedure.

I couldn’t believe that my relative had made a decision completely contrary to the wealth of information provided to her. I asked her son-in-law why she had made this choice. He said that she liked the local surgeon and the community hospital was close to her home.

This story does have a happy ending. She underwent open-heart surgery and continues to make a slow but steady recovery.

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