Medical malpractice is a serious ordeal. And while you can’t always control what a doctor is going to do when you’re under their care, there are certain steps you can take to dramatically reduce your chances of being victimized.
The Sobering Reality of Medical Malpractice
Research shows that more than 250,000 people die each year in the United States as a result of medical mistakes and malpractice. This makes it the third-leading cause of death (after heart disease and cancer).
However, other studies suggest this figure is more like 440,000. (Funeral directors, physicians, medical examiners, and coroners rarely note human errors on death certificates.)
The most common types of medical malpractice are misdiagnosis, failure to treat, prescription drug errors, surgical errors, and childbirth injuries.
Frustratingly, proving a medical malpractice claim can be challenging. For a claim to be considered valid, four specific elements must be proved by an experienced medical malpractice attorney: (1) A professional duty was owed to the patient; (2) There was a breach of such duty; (3) An injury was caused by the breach; and (4) There were resulting damages. So even if you become a victim of medical malpractice, it can be an uphill road to prove a claim in a court of law.
Simple Ways to Reduce Your Risk of Being Victimized
As a patient, you’re ultimately in a vulnerable position. (There are certain factors and circumstances that will always be outside of your control.) However, with a little extra vigilance, there are several ways you can reduce your risk of being victimized. Take a look:
1. Prioritize Communication
Be as transparent as you possibly can with your physicians. There’s no sense in hiding information or failing to disclose relevant medical information. By giving your doctor all of the relevant details as soon as possible, you empower them with the information they need to make wise decisions.
If you feel like you’re working with a physician who doesn’t ask the right questions, listen carefully, or set reasonable expectations, this could be a sign that you need to switch doctors. Good communication goes both ways. A doctor who is open with you is usually going to show more attention to detail.
2. Be Proactive
Be as proactive as you can about your health care. Don’t simply take a doctor at his word. When it comes to a surgical procedure or serious diagnosis, always get multiple opinions. And while the internet isn’t the most reliable source of health information, it’s always a good idea to do some basic online research to better understand what your doctor is talking about.
The more you understand about your health, the less likely it is that you’ll become a victim. You’ll start to notice when something doesn’t seem quite right. You’ll also be able to describe symptoms and discuss desired outcomes with your physician. This forces your healthcare team to get focused.
3. Have an Advocate
If you’re having a surgical procedure performed, always bring a friend or loved one with you. This is especially important if you’ll be staying in the hospital for an extended period of time and/or will be on heavy medication and/or under the influence of anesthesia.
Having someone who knows you and cares about you is extremely important – not just for moral support, but also for your physical support and well-being. In essence, they act as an advocate when you can’t easily advocate for yourself. They’ll be able to speak up if something doesn’t seem quite right.
4. Ask Lots of Questions
As a patient, you have every right to ask questions. Don’t hold anything back. Whether it’s related to your condition, treatment options, procedures, or prognosis, you have a right to ask questions and get answers.
A good physician will not only answer the questions, but they’ll actually give you additional resources so that you can learn even more on your own time.
Adding it All Up
Accidents happen. However, there’s never an excuse for malpractice. The more aware you are as a patient, the less likely that you’ll become a victim. Be proactive and always question everything. Trust your instincts and be meticulous in your due diligence. If you do these things, your risk will be significantly lower.