(previously posted under the title 6 reasons to sue your doctor-and how not to-part 1)
In the March 2015 issue of Medical Economics, attorney Richard Baker wrote, “Being sued for malpractice, especially for the first time, can be an unsettling and frustrating experience for a physician.”
And stressful and unsettling for a patient, or patient’s family . A medical malpractice lawsuit follows an adverse medical outcome – a missed or inaccurate diagnosis, an ineffective or harmful treatment, a surgery gone bad, an outcome that left permanent harm or at worst, death. Patients become upset and often angry, and assume that malpractice has occurred. They want to hold the doctor responsible , and want compensation for medical expenses, lost income, pain and suffering.
I don’t understand all the legal aspects of medical liability. But an unsatisfactory outcome may not mean poor care ; illness or injury can be so severe that any treatment is ineffective. Or there were multiple possible treatment options so the physician made a judgement call. But it may reflect some behavior on the part of the doctor, another healthcare professional, or even the patient that could have been avoided.
In the article, “YOU’VE BEEN SUED FOR MALPRACTICE-NOW WHAT?” Mr. Baker offers 6 common reasons for malpractice lawsuits, and what physicians can do to prevent them. In this series I look at them from the patient viewpoint- what you can do avoid getting care that makes you want to sue .
When doctors and patients work together, patients will get care that is safe, satisfactory and successful.
1. FAILURE TO COMMUNICATE
Too often, physicians don’t listen to patient concerns or explain their diagnosis and treatment in terms they can understand. But it is also important for patients to communicate fully with their doctors.
Doctors know that some issues are uncomfortable for patients to discuss, like smoking, alcohol use, eating and exercise. But if you withhold information on sensitive subjects like substance use and sexuality, you do yourself a disservice. When a doctor treats you with incomplete or inaccurate information about your past and current medical history, the advice is incomplete or inaccurate also. As embarrassing or uncomfortable as it may be, be open and honest with your physician about anything that affects your health- everything in your life, past and current. Your doctor won’t judge and needs all the information necessary to understand your health status.
If you don’t understand your diagnosis or treatment, ASK QUESTIONS. Take notes, or ask your doctor to write down your diagnosis and instructions, or to suggest books or websites where you can get more information. With EHRs, (electronic health records) the office staff can print out information from your visit. When available, use a patient portal to access your information online.
Here’s another post about effective communication with your doctor.
2. LACK OF TRULY INFORMED CONSENT
Informed consent means health care professionals must explain the benefits as well as the risks of any medical procedure so the patient fully understands it. When you sign the consent form, you say “I give permission for this procedure and I fully understand what might happen.” Ask questions before you sign and don’t sign until you are confident that you understand what will or may happen.
Here are suggestions on questions you should ask before making a decision and giving consent for surgery.
Please review another post about communication