Author offers tips on medical decision making

Colleen Tallen, M.D.

Trying to make the best medical decisions for ourselves or someone we love can be overwhelming. Colleen Tallen, M.D., a palliative medicine specialist and author of the newly released book, “Decide While You Can,” is intimately familiar with this journey. Dr. Tallen has walked with thousands of patients and their loved ones as they explored and discovered what medical choices were right for them. Combining her medical expertise and the personal stories of those she has helped, this guide takes a complicated, sometimes scary, topic and empowers us with simple, straightforward talk for making medical decisions that fit who we are and what we want.

Dr. Tallen drew on her 20-plus years of experience as a palliative care physician in writing the book over the past three years. Her purpose in tackling the often-not-talked-about topic is the need for individuals to explore, discuss and communicate their decisions with loved ones and their healthcare providers.

“Most of us have interfaced with the healthcare system for ourselves or someone we love. If we have not yet, the odds are good that we will. The healthcare-patient relationship is like any other relationship. We have to learn the language and the culture of healthcare if we really want to understand what medical choices fit how we want to live. ‘Decide While You Can’ focuses on doing just that.”

The book is based on three basic principles:

1. We all deserve the respect and dignity of having medical choices explained so we understand how each choice may affect the way we live.

2. We all are accountable to do our part by learning to communicate with our healthcare team and we expect our healthcare team to do the same.

3. We believe our medical decisions impact our individual lives which in turn impacts our whole society.

Dr. Tallen also serves as medical director of Saint Mary’s Health Care’s Pain and Palliative Care Program and as director of cancer survivorship for the Lacks Cancer Center, a National Cancer Institute Selected Community Cancer Center located in Grand Rapids. She is an assistant professor at Michigan State University’s School of Human Medicine and a clinical preceptor for physician fellows and residents, physician assistants, and nurse practitioners. She speaks throughout the country to medical professionals and is involved in numerous organizations committed to improving communication and education within healthcare. She and her husband have five children, a daughter-in-law, and treasure their time with family.

“Decide While You Can”—published by Edwards Brothers, Ann Arbor, Mich.—was released in mid October and books are available online through The book retails for $18.95.

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