Being an informed patient can prevent medical malpractice
Follow these tips before, during, after doctor's visit
By attorney Jorge P. Gutierrez Jr., Special to THELAW.TV
We all go to the doctor. It's important to take steps to protect you and your family from medical malpractice before, during, and after we visit the doctor or a hospital.
Don't be afraid to get a second opinion — We live in a world where folks will get multiple estimates for car repairs or home improvements, but we take physicians for their word. Before any major non-emergency medical procedure, or even a minor procedure, you should inquire as to the qualifications of the physician and possibly get the opinion of another doctor. For example, if a doctor thinks you need knee surgery, perhaps you may only need physical therapy instead, and can avoid the risks of undergoing invasive surgery. It's all about being responsible and making an informed decision with the most information available.
Establish a good relationship with your primary care physician — Emergencies do happen and, in those cases, a visit to the ER is unavoidable. But for non-emergent care, it's best to visit your primary care physician or an urgent care center, preferably affiliated with a hospital. Treatment in an ER for non-emergent care can take several hours and you risk the chance to get hospital-borne illnesses.
Bring someone with you — If you have to undergo a serious medical procedure, bring someone with you who can serve as another set of eyes and ears and help you understand everything that is going on. That person can ask questions help keep you out of harm's way.
Be an informed patient — Whenever you're given a new prescription or the results of a medical test, take the time to learn about it so you have a reasonably good understanding of what's going on. You are primarily responsible for your own health. Taking the time to be informed will help you recognize medical errors or things that don't seem right. Don't be afraid to ask questions before or after the procedure if you don't feel right or if your post-procedure pain or discomfort is not what was expected.
Get the best medical care available — The best advice you can get to avoid being in a situation where you may be a victim of medical malpractice is to avoid visiting substandard physicians or facilities who may not give you proper medical treatment. Research potential physicians and learn about their education, training, and experience. Did they attend a respected medical school? Are they board certified? Did they do a fellowship in the area where they will be treating you? Have they been the subject of various malpractice lawsuits? Try to select a physician who is board certified in their field and always try to select a physician who has medical malpractice insurance. Some states allow physicians to "go bare" (practice without malpractice insurance) under some circumstances. If something were to happen to you and the doctor does not have insurance, it will be much more difficult to obtain counsel and receive compensation for injuries or death related to malpractice. Get answers to these and other important questions by visiting your state's department of health website and investigate the physicians and/or facilities who will be providing care. A few minutes of research goes a long way to prevent problems down the road.
The author, Jorge P. Gutierrez Jr., is a Weston, Fla., personal injury, wrongful death, and medical malpractice attorney at Freedland Harwin, PL.
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