Visiting a doctor has become more about quantity than quality; efficiency in seeing as many patients and writing as many prescriptions as possible is the norm. Unfortunately, this kind of brusque overview of your health – one study found that the average time spent with a doctor is just over 17 minutes – can lead you to become a victim of medical malpractice. Misdiagnoses can lead to serious and long-term injury, pointless surgeries, prescribing wrong medications, and even death.
In visiting a doctor, you must be your own advocate. Patients are often not taken seriously unless they speak up for themselves. There are many important questions that you can and should ask your doctor during a visit. Just a few of these include:
- What are the tests needed to diagnose my issue correctly?
- What are my treatment options, and what are the potential side effects?
- What are the risks and benefits of this surgery, and are there less invasive alternatives?
- What is your success rate for this surgery?
- Do I need a follow-up visit?
- What is the cost, and how long will treatment take?
- What happens if I refuse treatment?
- Is there anything I should avoid during treatment?
- Can you refer me to another physician for a second opinion?
- Is there more than one possible diagnosis for what I have?
It’s beneficial to write down your questions and a list of current medications before arriving for your appointment. You can also bring a trusted friend or family member to assist you if you are apprehensive about speaking up. But remember, asking questions is your right.
Often a doctor’s first response will be to treat your symptoms, not necessarily the underlying condition. If he quickly writes you a prescription but doesn’t tell you what it’s for, especially if it seems like a short-term fix, you can always voice those concerns or even ask for another doctor.
When a physician follows the correct process for finding the source of your pain, he starts by going over your symptoms and medical/family history and performing a basic physical exam. He should take the time to ask probing questions about your lifestyle and other relevant factors. Maybe he will order some blood work. This should result in what’s called a differential diagnosis – a list of several possible diseases or conditions you could be suffering. Any necessary tests should rule out the worst-case scenario first. A headache shouldn’t be dismissed as a migraine when it could be a brain bleed; back pain can require a lot more than Advil and rest, especially if it’s a spinal injury.
Neglecting this process can lead to a doctor’s failure to diagnose your condition correctly, often resulting in malpractice lawsuits. Misdiagnosis does not always call for litigation; simple, honest mistakes happen to even the best of physicians. It’s more likely to lead to legal problems if the patient received inadequate care, had an unnecessary surgery, or was told to delay treatment when time was a factor.
A patient must usually prove one of two things for a successful malpractice case: either the doctor made a differential diagnosis that included the correct diagnosis but didn’t dig further into verifying the validity. Or, the proper diagnosis was not made, but a similar physician would have found it. The risk of misdiagnosis is more common when no differential diagnosis has been made. If a doctor refuses to entertain the idea that it could be something other than what he initially believed, you are at risk of becoming a victim of medical malpractice.
If you or someone you know has suffered from a failure to diagnose, a legal team well-versed in medical malpractice is essential. D’Arcy Johnson Day specializes in medical malpractice cases. Our firm has a passion for helping people in New Jersey and the surrounding areas to determine if their injuries are due to medical malpractice and their legal options. Call us for a free, personal consultation at (866) 327-2952 or contact us here to get started.
From sexual abuse matters to personal injury and workers compensation, Jessica brings a wealth of experience to her practice at D’Arcy Johnson Day. Her fluency in both English and Spanish enables her to help so many members of the community, as she focuses on accident and personal injury cases, work injuries, medical malpractice, immigration, criminal law, and municipal court proceedings among other areas of practice.