A medical malpractice lawsuit can be devastating to the victim in many ways. Results of a lawsuit could include loss of wages, extended medical and rehabilitation center bills, pain and suffering to one’s lifestyle, and life-changing events to family members who have to adjust to the new way of life. In a Spokane, WA a woman was awarded $813,000 in a recent malpractice lawsuit. A misdiagnosis by her physician led to the amputation of her foot, which the doctor thought was terminal cancer. She was actually suffering from pneumonia.
Malpractice lawsuits can also occur when there is a medication error, or a delay or change in treatment such as chemotherapy. Some of these errors are attributed to the requirements of physicians and attendees to put in long hours and double shifts without much sleep. Studies involving medical errors featured in the Journal of the American Medical Association cite length of time that someone is allowed to work without taking a break, and efforts to modify those conditions so that errors do not occur. Other errors occur when patients are handed off from one attendant to another resulting in lack of communication. Charting errors and illegible writing are also contributing factors, as are the pressure to see more patients in less time. Some health care professionals have even expressed concern about their own ability to perform effectively during their shifts due to fatigue that comes from the long hours required.
While you cannot tell your doctor how to do the job, you can be aware of situations that might invite error. What can you do to avoid any medical errors on the part of your physicians or attendees?
- Be forthcoming to your doctor with all medications and supplements you are taking, including any allergies or adverse effects you may have.
- Insist that anyone caring for you has washed their hands and ask them if they have done so.
- Confirm that all involved in any decisions to have surgery are on the same page and that they communicate consistently with what needs to be done before, during and after surgery.
- Do your homework by asking others who have had that surgery or treatment what they thought of the outcome.
- Always follow up on any tests ordered by your doctor.
- Take the time to fill out the paperwork and forms required during your visits, including expanding on any past medical history, family history and medications currently prescribed.
- Ask to see your medical records to further your understanding of the diagnosis and documentation.
- Get a second opinion.
- Be vocal. If you do not understand what your physician has said, ask him or her to explain it in terms that you can understand, and continue asking questions until you have a full comprehension of the issue.
If you have been a victim of a misdiagnosis or medical error, you may be suffering long-term, life-changing events as a result. It will be important to enlist the counsel of a law firm who has a renowned successful history of medical malpractice lawsuits so that you can be compensated in the best way possible.
Physicians are generally advocates for our care, but even they can make mistakes and order a wrong treatment or provide a misdiagnosis. Continuing to be our own self-care advocate will keep us informed and educated along the way.