Medical malpractice–it should be an oxymoron, but it’s not. Sadly, it’s a significant problem in the United States. Several studies have been conducted in an effort to determine how many victims are killed each year in hospitals by negligent physicians. A 1999 report from the Institute of Medicine concluded that as many as 98,000 people die each year due to preventable medical errors.
Other studies place the number of people killed each year by preventable medical errors in a hospital setting into the hundreds of thousands. The number of people seriously injured or killed by preventable medical errors outside of hospital settings is even greater.
Many conditions have similar symptoms and most symptoms have benign explanations. Rushed, overworked physicians are often tempted to apply Occam’s razor to the problem and treat the more likely ailment.
This often leaves the real problem uncovered until it worsens. In the case of cancer, for example, overlooking the problem at early stages can be fatal. If you suspect that your physician has misdiagnosed your condition, take four simple steps to resolve the issue.
The first step after receiving any suspect diagnosis is to express your concerns to the physician. Ask how the physician reached his or her conclusions, whether the symptoms may be consistent with anything else, and whether any tests are available to verify the diagnosis.
Additional tests often entail an additional cost that your insurance provider may be unwilling to cover. However, early identification and treatment can mean the difference between life and death. If there is good reason to suspect that you may have a serious ailment, pressing for relevant tests to be performed may save your life.
Many patients automatically defer to the doctor’s judgment when a concern arises, but patients should never feel afraid to discuss their ailments or treatment options with their physicians. A clear flow of communication between patient and doctor is necessary to identify and treat illnesses.
A competent physician will be able and willing to answer your questions and listen to any concerns that you have. If the physician dismisses your concerns and does not offer satisfactory explanations for his or her actions, it may be time to move on to the next step.
Get a Second Opinion
If you are not satisfied with the response from your physician, you should consult another physician. Receiving a second opinion allows patients to determine whether the original physician’s diagnosis was correct.
Reasonable minds may differ regarding the interpretation of common symptoms and how best to treat the underlying illness. However, a physician who is unwilling to devote the time or effort necessary to correctly diagnose your ailments may be failing to meet the standard of care in his or her line of work.
If the previous physician was negligent and failed to diagnose your illness correctly, consulting a second physician will help you ascertain the extent of the damage.
Serious injuries often become aggravated without proper medical attention. Patients who are misled as to the extent of their injuries often engage in strenuous activities that can further damage muscle, cartilage, bone, or nerves. The extent to which an injury was aggravated due to a negligent physician will be important later.
Follow an Appropriate Treatment Regimen
The other purpose behind obtaining a second opinion is to initiate a treatment regimen. Whenever you are injured, getting well should be your primary concern. Some patients refuse to take their medication while others engage in certain activities against medical advice.
Most physicians are highly trained and skilled individuals who have your well-being at heart. Following the advice of competent physicians is the course of action most likely to heal you, reduce your pain levels, and get you back to work as soon as possible.
Whether you do or do not follow your treatment regimen can affect your chances in court later. Plaintiffs in a lawsuit for negligence have a duty to mitigate their damages.
A plaintiff who takes no preventative action and knowingly allows damages to accrue may not recover those damages. Additionally, failing to take reasonable measures to address your injuries can cause the trier of fact to look upon your testimony as to the valid components of your claim with suspicion.
Seek Legal Counsel
Negligent physicians are liable for the damages that they cause. A cause of action for negligence arises when the defendant owes another party a duty of care and breaches that duty of care, thereby causing a foreseeable injury.
Failing to explore reasonable alternatives, ignoring patient concerns, and foregoing tests that a reasonable physician would order are inconsistent with the standard of care ordinarily seen in American medicine. If you are injured or if your existing injuries were exacerbated as a result of a misdiagnosis, you should consult with a personal injury attorney such as http://www.bottarlaw.com/syracuse-medical-malpractice-lawyer/, for example, who is experienced in handling medical malpractice cases.
You may be entitled to compensatory damages, including economic damages for lost income and medical expenses and non-economic damages like pain and suffering and mental duress. Deterring future misconduct is another benefit of seeking legal counsel; not taking action against negligent physicians enables them to go on to harm other parties and reduces the quality of medical care for all.
While not every erroneous diagnosis automatically leads to a cause of action for medical malpractice, victims of negligent physicians should understand their rights under the law.
Writer LaGeris Underwood Bell has personal knowledge of the trauma that can be inflicted by a negligent physician. She earnestly hopes this article will provide resources and information to help deal with such an egregious calamity.
Photo credit: http://www.flickr.com/photos/phalinn/8116091662/