In my Panama City, Florida, personal injury practice, I have heard from many devastated families who have been the victims of medical malpractice. Medical errors occur when medical care is substandard or when the wrong diagnostic or treatment plan is used in the first place. It can often be difficult and very expensive to prove the negligence of a doctor or facility. Considering the statewide caps on damages, the injury often needs to be catastrophic for a case to be economically feasible to pursue.
The Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality has compiled a list of tips to help your family and you to avoid the devastation associated with medical and hospital malpractice.
Be involved in your own healthcare. We often take for granted that the doctor knows best. Unfortunately, such is not always the case. Ask questions if you don't understand the treatment plan your doctor wants to follow. Ask them until you do understand. Do research to better understand the condition and the medical actions that have proven successful.
Use several sources to get a clear and consistent explanation of the condition. Your doctor is seeing many patients every day, so although your history is in your chart, often a doctor is looking only at the current sheet completed by the nurse with your current weight, blood pressure, temperature and your complaint or the reason you are there. If there are things you believe he/she needs to consider, remind him or her.
Make sure you bring a list of all prescribed medicines, supplements or over the counter drugs you are taking. Many people see different doctors for their ailments, such as a heart or lung doctor, and may be on a prescribed medicine that your general physician is not aware of. It could interact negatively with a new medicine he or she may prescribe.
When you drop off and pick-up your prescriptions, you will generally be asked if you have any questions for the pharmacist. If there is something you are unsure of, ASK! The doses and any food requirements are generally noted on the bottle, but if you read the list of side effects and have a concern, call your doctor or the pharmacist.
Many hospital stays are pre-planned, but some are due to emergencies, so you may not have a choice about where you are taken. Infections caused by increasingly drug-resistant bacteria are on the increase in hospitals, so don't be afraid to ask all healthcare workers if they have washed their hands. It is one of the most important ways to prevent the spread of infection. If the situation allows, be sure to clearly discuss surgery options so you know exactly what will take place.
Taking responsibility for your healthcare will not only educate you but is also critical to making sure you are receiving the level of care you anticipate and expect. If you or a loved one is the victim of a medical mistake, contact me for answers to your questions about the standard of care that should have been used in your diagnosis and treatment and about your rights.