This blog posting is the result of what we have learned after many years of assisting medical malpractice victims throughout the United States find local medical malpractice lawyers willing to investigate the reasons why they experienced unexpected and harmful results from medical treatment.
Not all medical malpractice victims suffered their injuries due to the same causes or the same failures to provide reasonable medical care, and not all victims of medical malpractice were even aware that their bad results from medical procedures were due to medical negligence.
I. Be Your Own Best Advocate For Receiving Proper Medical Care – Ask Questions That Are Important To You
You have a right to receive proper medical diagnosis and medical treatment in a timely and safe manner. Many times your medical providers may not provide you with all of the information that you need in order to make an informed medical decision that is right for you. Sometimes medical providers try to make medical decisions for you that they believe are right for you, not with the intent to cause you harm or to keep you in the dark as to your options, but rather they believe that they are in a better position to “know” what is best for you, based on their medical knowledge and experience treating other patients in similar (but not identical) situations.
The bottom line: what is best for other people may not be what is best for you, or what your medical provider may think is in your best interest.
Laws in most U.S. states recognize and are intended to protect your right to make your own medical decisions, as reflected in what are known as “informed consent” laws. For example, in Maryland, a physician is under a duty to make an adequate disclosure of substantial facts which would be material to the patient’s decision regarding medical treatment. The doctrine of informed consent imposes on a physician, before he subjects his patient to medical treatment, the duty to explain the procedure to the patient and to warn him/her of any material risks or dangers inherent in or collateral to the therapy, so as to enable the patient to make an intelligent and informed choice about whether or not to undergo such treatment. The scope of the physician’s duty to inform is measured by the materiality of the information to the decision of the patient. A material risk is one which a physician knows or ought to know would be significant to a reasonable person in the patient’s position in deciding whether or not to submit to a particular medical treatment or procedure.
How do you protect your right to receive information so that you can “make an intelligent and informed choice about whether or not to undergo such treatment”? Ask questions, and keep asking questions, until you feel satisfied that you understand your medical condition, the treatment options available to you, and the risks and benefits your medical provider believes are associated with the proposed medical treatment, so that you can make the decisions that are right for you.
Why do we say “keep asking questions”? Because too often patients feel intimidated by their medical providers because patients feel they are expected to defer to the “expert’s” decision-making regarding our care (after all, we see medical providers because we do not ourselves have the education, training, experience, or medical knowledge to diagnose and treat our own medical conditions). Many times we fail to ask follow-up questions that are important to us to understand and intelligently agree to a course of medical treatment because we feel rushed into silence when the medical provider finally arrives in our examining room (often our examining room is one of many examining rooms full of waiting patients, just like us), and we have already observed the crowded waiting room full of other patients waiting for their turn to be seen by the same medical provider, which preconditions us to accept that our time with our medical providers will be short and limited. We are also conditioned to accept that our time is less valuable than the medical provider’s time, as confirmed by the medical provider’s office double-booking appointments or unrealistically booking appointments too close to each other.
It is not just us who believes that you have a right to ask questions of your medical provider until you are satisfied that you understand your medical condition, your treatment options, and the risks and benefits of the different treatment options. The American Medical Association (AMA) Code of Medical Ethics, Opinion 2.1.1, expressly states: “Informed consent to medical treatment is fundamental in both ethics and law. Patients have the right to receive information and ask questions about recommended treatments so that they can make well-considered decisions about care … The physician should include information about: 1. The diagnosis (when known) 2.The nature and purpose of recommended interventions 3. The burdens, risks, and expected benefits of all options, including forgoing treatment.” (emphasis added)
Hence, you have the right, and you owe it to yourself, to be your own best advocate for obtaining the best available medical treatment, by preparing your questions before your meeting with your medical providers, and by politely but diligently insisting that your medical providers answer those questions to your complete understanding during your meeting, and to fully answer any additional questions important to you that arise during your meeting with your medical providers, or that may arise after you leave the office. If you do so, confidently and consistently, perhaps you can avoid having to contact us if something goes wrong with your medical care.
If you or a loved one may have been harmed as a result of medical malpractice in the United States, you should promptly find a medical malpractice lawyer in your state who may investigate your medical negligence claim for you and represent you or your loved one in a medical malpractice case, if appropriate.
Click on the “Contact Us Now” tab to the right, visit our website, or call us toll-free in the United States at 800-295-3959 to find medical malpractice attorneys in your state who may assist you.
Turn to us when you don’t know where to turn.