Many people each year are injured or die as a result of medical errors. Medical malpractice is when a doctor makes a medical mistake that causes injury to the patient.
A medical mistake is when a doctor fails to use reasonable care under the circumstances and does something that another reasonably prudent doctor would not do under the same circumstances. This is referred to as standards of care that doctors must follow.
Many medical malpractice claims related to injuries caused by a failure to properly diagnose and treat a medical condition, surgery, birth-related injuries to the mom and the baby, and medications.
So, is there anything a patient or a patient's caregiver can do to try to avoid being the victim of a medical error or medical malpractice?
Advocating For Your Own Medical Rights
Yes - you have to be your own advocate for either yourself or your loved one. Being your own patient advocate is an important step in trying to prevent medical errors.
Speaking with and questioning doctors and healthcare providers can be intimidating, but it also can be very helpful for both you and the healthcare provider to fully understand what is going on. Make sure you tell the healthcare provider all of your complaints/symptoms in a clear manner. If you feel there is a problem or have a concern, speak up and ask the healthcare provider about it. Doing this can help prevent medical errors.
Ask Lots of Questions
Do your own research online and write your questions down so you do not forget them. Take notes on what the doctors or healthcare providers tell you. Consider taking a family member or friend with you to important healthcare visits. They may help you remember what the healthcare provider said and ask important questions you might not have considered.
Always follow-up with the healthcare provider and ask about lab results and diagnostic imaging results. Do not just think no news is good news.
When a family member or loved one is in the hospital, the hospital may have a Patient Advocate or a Hospital Representative available to help if you have any questions or concerns. Take advantage of that if you feel you should.
Research Your Doctor
As a patient, it is important to trust your doctor and healthcare providers. You do not have to trust blindly, though. Research your doctor online and see what other patients think of the healthcare provider.
In New York State, information about your doctor may be found at the New York State Physician Profile or at the Department of Health Office of Professional Medical Conduct.
You can also research information about hospitals here, and nursing homes at this link.
These are just a few of the ways you can be an effective advocate for yourself or loved ones. Trust your instincts, ask questions, and speak up if you still have concerns. This will not only help you better understand your own health, but it may also help prevent medical errors.
Jennifer L. Fay has been successfully representing plaintiffs in Medical Malpractice claims since she joined Faraci Lange's Buffalo office in 2013.