The phrase "empowered patient" is a common buzzword these days. CNN has a nice story titled, "Top Empowered Patient tips for 2010." Patients wish to be empowered so they can ask the write questions and make some sophisticated medical decisions with the proper guidance. In the past, the practice of medicine was more paternalistic in that physicians told patients what to do, and patients hardly asked any questions. They simply listed to their doctor and did as they were told.
Today, patients are doing research and learning about their conditions and their medications. They're researching options and exploring alternative treatments. They're discussing health topics with their friends and also with total strangers on Internet forums. The bottom line is that if you want to become an empowered patient, then you must become a better informed and educated patient. Don't be afraid to ask questions or get a second opinion. Don't believe everything you hear from your friends or read on the Internet.
There's a danger in "knowing enough to be dangerous," so it's always important to defer to the professional advice provided by your health care provider. Don't assume that you know more than your doctor.