Preventing Medical Malpractice as a Patient

While media headlines might paint a pretty picture of what occurs after a case of medical malpractice, not all victims receive the compensation they deserve, even after a drawn-out court case.   There is also the hurt, anguish and/or loss that can come as a result of a medical error.  Sometimes, the monetary payout is nothing compared to what is lost.  If you want examples, ask the thousands of people who have faced permanent handicaps or who have lost a loved one.

So, the goal should be to prevent medical errors as the doctor, nurse, receptionist, and as the patient.  Be aware that malpractice can occur in many different arenas – hospitals, clinics, surgery centers, pharmacies, and even in your own home.  The accidents can relate to medications, surgical procedures, diagnoses, lab reports, and more.  Often, it is a simple and routine task that goes wrong because the medical professional is so accustomed to doing it that he or she becomes almost robotic.

As the patient, you should be sure that every doctor you see is aware of all medications that you are taking (prescriptions, over-the-counter, herbal supplements, and vitamins).  Discuss any allergies you have to medications and the sort of reaction that is brought on.  Read the prescriptions written for you and ask for information about the drug if you don’t know what it is.  If you are requiring surgery, try to choose a hospital that has experience with the procedure and performs it regularly.  Feel comfortable asking questions, expressing concerns, or requesting the attention of the doctor in charge if necessary.  It is always a good idea to have a friend or family member present, even for a minor surgery, so someone can act as your advocate.  Finally, ask about test results (don’t ever assume that no news is a good thing) and be sure that you understand any diagnosis given.

Being an active part of your medical treatment is the best way to prevent medical errors, which means that you have a better chance of receiving the best possible care.

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