Imagine if you have stomach cramps and you go to see your doctor to find out what is going on. Your doctor examines you and tells you that it is just gas and to lay off the spicy foods for a while. You do exactly what the doctor orders you to do, but your stomach pain steadily becomes more excruciating. This increasing pain prompts you to get a second opinion from another doctor; the other doctor performs their examination and immediately admits you for a tumor removal. You’re probably saying to yourself, “How often does something like this actually happen?” Sadly, more often than you might think. A survey conducted by a respected journal in the medical field states that over half of the physicians surveyed said they often or sometimes describe a patient’s diagnosis in a way that does not give them the full picture of their circumstances. In a situation like this, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. There are some things at the beginning of your doctor-patient relationship that can mitigate the chances of not getting a straight medical diagnosis. It is also important to know what your legal options are if it does happen, and serious harm comes about because of it.
It goes without saying that trust is a two-way street; while the focus here is about patients lying to doctors, the suggestions they provide for establishing that trust are, without a doubt, very helpful. Finding a way to establish a personal connection between yourself and your doctor will go a long ways towards building that trust. A good way to establish that personal connection with your physician is ask about the hobbies he or she might be engaged in, where they are from, or disclose something about yourself that you would not ordinarily share with an acquaintance. This is a general rule of anybody in any profession; people like talking about themselves. Do not be afraid to ask the doctor about his or her job and what it is like.
If you have successfully broken the ice with your physician, you should feel comfortable addressing more serious issues; one of those issues being how you want serious diagnoses to be addressed to you. A New York Times article touched on some approaches towards establishing that dialogue. The article strongly suggests that you talk to your physician about how you want serious diagnoses delivered to you before these difficult issues rear their heads. Ask yourself if you want your doctor to give your prognosis straight to you or if you would prefer the family handle the straight talk about your condition.
Unfortunately, if you or a loved one made a decision about their treatment based on less than accurate information from the physician, you are not without options. You and your loved one have the right to informed consent when deciding on any medical treatment. If you feel that the physician has not been forthcoming with information pertaining to a diagnosis, there are four elements of informed consent that your attorney can analyze to determine whether or not you have a case:
- Your attorney will need to determine if the doctor provided a complete diagnosis of your condition;
- Did the physician discuss the purpose and process of any proposed treatments, including alternative measures;
- Did the physician review the benefits and risks of each treatment; and
- Did the physician review the benefits and risks of not getting treatment?
If these four elements are met, based on the circumstances, you and your family may have a case for a proof-of-fault claim in a medical malpractice suit.
Taking some time to establishing those lines of communication and understanding your options is a prescription that everyone could benefit from. If you or a loved one suspect that you made a medical decision based on faulty information from your doctor, feel free to reach out to the Law Offices of Michael Cordova so we can determine if there is anything that can be done to help you and your family.