The Institute of Medicine reported a decade ago that as many as 44,000 to 98,000 people die in hospitals in the U.S. every year from medical errors. At Michaels & Smolak we handle many medical malpractice actions involving injured patients from the Syracuse, Auburn, and Geneva, New York areas, as well as other upstate New York communities. Although medical malpractice is never the patient’s fault, there are some steps you can take to minimize the risk that YOU will become one of the many victims of medical malpractice:
(1) ASK. You have a right, and a duty to yourself, to know all about your medical condition and treatment. Don’t be afraid to ask questions, especially if you have any doubts or concerns about a procedure your doctor is recommending, or a drug he is prescribing. Asking questions not only helps you understand how to get the most out of your medical treatment, it may also help the doctor focus on your particular needs. It doesn’t hurt to bring a friend or relative along with you to help you understand.
(2) Be careful about PRESCRIPTION DRUGS. Keep a list of the medicines you are taking, and share that list with your doctor. Don’t forget to tell him about any allergies or side effects you have had. If your doctor orders a prescription drug, make sure the medicine the pharmacist gives you is the same one, and the same doses, the doctor ordered.
(3) Make sure you receive, and understand, the results of any MEDICAL TESTING. Don’t just assume the results were negative if you don’t hear from your doctor. Call and find out. If you get the results, but don’t understand what they mean, make sure you find out.
(4) SHOP FOR THE RIGHT DOCTOR AND HOSPITAL. Some doctors and hospitals are better for certain procedures or conditions than others. Some are just plain better than others. You can find out a whole lot about hospitals and doctors on the internet these days. Research them! For example, the web site http://www.nydoctorprofile.com provides information about disciplinary actions taken or criminal charges filed against doctors.
(5) MAKE AN INFORMED DECISION ABOUT SURGERY. Make sure you understand all the possible benefits, and risks, of any surgery that is recommended for you. Keep in mind that your doctor makes a lot more money performing surgery than just seeing patients. He may want to do the surgery, but it might not be the right thing for you. Some doctors like to do a lot of surgery, even when the possible benefits are minimal. Research the surgery, and the success rate, on the internet. If you decide to undergo the surgery, be sure to tell not only your surgeon, but also the anesthesiologist and nurses, of any allergies or bad reactions you have had to any medications and anesthesia.
You can’t always avoid being a victim of medical malpractice in New York or anywhere else. You can research your doctor carefully, ask all the right questions, and make all the right decisions, but in the end, at some point, you are at the mercy of the professional who is treating you. Still, following the steps above will help reduce the risks that you will become one of the many victims of medical malpractice.