Policy & LawWellness

Steps You Can Take to Protect Yourself from Medical Malpractice – Talking with Your Doctor

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While Medical malpractice is not one hundred percent preventable, there are numerous steps you can take to reduce the chances that your doctor may commit medical negligence. Regardless of whether you will be undergoing a procedure, being treated with medication, or simply going to the doctor for a checkup, it is crucial that you do everything you can to protect yourself. Provide a Complete Medical History and Ask Your Doctor Questions A doctor must be fully informed about your medical history as this is where a doctor starts when determining how to treat a patient. Once your doctor knows what your current medical conditions are, what medications you take, and what health risks you may be exposed to (i.e., family history of cancer or heart disease), your doctor can develop a treatment plan that suits your needs. Many of us have a lot of faith and trust instilled in our doctors which are how doctor-patient relationships should be. However, no matter how much you trust your doctor, you should always be asking the most important questions about your medical treatment. If you are planning to undergo a procedure, you should consider asking the following questions:

  • How many times have you performed this procedure?
  • What is your complication rate?
  • What types of complications have your patients experienced in the past?
  • Are there any alternative treatments aside from undergoing this procedure?
  • Is this procedure a medical necessity?
  • How long will it take to recover from the procedure?

These questions will vary from person to person based on the type of procedure being performed as well as the patient’s individual health factors. No matter how minor or serious a procedure may be, asking questions of your doctor is a good first step to understanding all aspects of a procedure and whether or not the benefits outweigh the risks involved in the procedure. Understanding Express Versus Implied Consent Most of us know what the term “consent” means, but in the medical and legal worlds, the term becomes very important. Express consent is providing verbal consent to your doctor, such as stating that you agree to go forward with a procedure. Implied consent can be a little trickier as it is considered non-verbal consent where you are giving consent through your conduct or actions. For example, if you show up on the day of a surgical procedure, you are consenting to undergo the procedure, as you would not be there if you did not intend to be operated on by your doctor. The same is true if you make an appointment with a doctor. By making the appointment, you are impliedly consenting to that doctor offering a diagnosis and providing medical advice. Consent can be an important factor when it comes to a potential medical malpractice case as a patient’s consent could become an issue that may or may not establish that a doctor committed wrongdoing. As such, all patients should have a good understanding of the consent process.

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