Medical malpractice happens when a healthcare provider fails to provide adequate care to their patient—either because they did something they weren’t supposed to do, or because they were negligent and didn’t do what they needed to do.
While 34% of medical malpractice cases are surgical errors, there are other incidents that can cause complications for a patient. Other types of medical mistakes can include:
- Problems with medication. A doctor might prescribe the wrong medication to treat a particular illness. Other times, the medication is correct, but the dosage is either too high or too low to be effective, or is at a dangerous level.
- Misdiagnosis. If a condition is mistaken for something else, this can lead to unnecessary or inappropriate treatment.
- Failure to inform the patient of risks. Indiana law requires that physicians receive informed consent from patients (or guardians as appropriate) before they begin any kind of treatment. The law does not require this consent to be in writing; however, any consent that is written, signed, witnessed, and explained before the procedure is considered to be informed.
Not all incidents of medical malpractice are reported by hospitals, so it’s hard to get an exact figure for how many people die each year from physicians’ mistakes. One report from earlier this year suggests that over 251,000 people are fatal victims of improper care rather than victims of diseases. If this number is correct, it means medical malpractice is the third leading cause of death in the United States—after heart disease and cancer.
While it’s up to the doctors to treat patients as well as they can, there are still steps you can take to ensure your diligence as a patient. The following are 3 tips that you should use during your treatment process in order to stay safe and healthy, and to reduce your risk of becoming a victim of medical malpractice.
How to Reduce Your Risk of Becoming a Medical Malpractice Victim
1. Do your homework
Before you get any kind of medical care, do some research. This starts with choosing your doctors carefully. Get referrals if you can, and consult family and friends about physicians they have used with positive results. Verify the doctor’s license through the medical board, and check court records to see if they have any previous malpractice cases. Make sure that, when you talk to them, they are respectful of rules, regulations, and especially you.
On top of that, it’s important to be responsible for your own care. Do some of your own research into your condition to ensure that you can engage with your caretakers about your treatment. Inform your doctor about any medications you’re taking and any preexisting conditions that could affect your treatment. Be sure that you go to your follow-up appointments to catch potential complications before they get worse. Don’t just sign anything that they put in front of you—actually read the paperwork you’re given and make sure that you understand the risks and responsibilities from both parties. If you’re not sure of something, ask detailed questions. It’s your health; don’t be afraid to speak up.
2. Get a second opinion
No matter what your diagnosis is or what treatment option your doctor recommends, it’s crucial that you get a second opinion from someone else. Doctors are human, too; some doctors might look at things differently from others, or might hold different beliefs on what the best options are for their patients. Even if you like what you hear or agree with your physician, it’s good to get another set of eyes on your case. You wouldn’t want to undergo an unnecessary surgery or end up ignoring a problem because one doctor missed something that another might have caught. If two opinions aren’t enough, you can even get a third.
3. Bring someone you trust to be your advocate
Being sick is stressful, and you have a lot on your mind. It’s a heavy burden to bear alone, and you shouldn’t have to. When you go to appointments, bring a loved one with you. They can be a friend or a family member, but make sure they’re someone you trust. They will be your advocate and will help you fight the illness when things start to get overwhelming. Just like when you get a second opinion from a doctor, your loved one can act as a second set of eyes and ears. They might be able to pick up on something that you didn’t, and it’s good to have someone that knows as much as you do about your treatment.
Contact a Medical Malpractice Lawyer in Indiana
A lot of errors can be made in the practice of medicine, but that doesn’t mean you should simply accept when your care hurts instead of helps you. If you believe that you have a case of medical malpractice, hold your physician accountable. Reach out to the medical malpractice attorneys at Wilson Kehoe Winingham for a free case evaluation.