What should you (or your patient advocate) do when the doctor says something that you don’t understand?
One reason for malpractice suits is lack of proper follow-up care when the patient and his/her family does not fully understand the doctor’s instructions for the patient at home. When something goes wrong, neither the patient nor the doctor is happy. Then, as often seems to be the case, lawyers step in to take advantage of an already awful situation and we begin moving away from better medical care to expensive lawsuits and doctors covering their a$$et$.
How can we avoid these misunderstandings?
It is better to paraphrase, repeat, and write down, then ask the doctor to read our words or listen to our understanding of our care plan, than to risk our lives.
Yes, doctors are busy and seem to whip in and out of appointments. But our LIFE depends on it. We must stand our ground and be sure we understand fully what our doctor is recommending.
A personal example will illustrate:
After outpatient surgery, the doctor explained my care plan. I kept asking questions and he seemed rushed and didn’t want to give me the time. Finally feeling pressured, I stopped asking and took what I understood to be the post-surgical care plan and what I could expect for healing.
Three days later, the wound healed closed and I began running a fever and eventually went into shock. Rushed to the medical center, I was given IV and oral antibiotics to stem the infection that had gone through my body, because the wound healed closed too soon.
I had to return to surgery, have the wound re-opened and cleaned out.
This time, I insisted that my husband, David, accompany me into the surgical room. Surprisingly, the doctor agreed. David stood his ground with the doctor until ALL MY QUESTIONS WERE ANSWERED to my satisfaction.
At one point, the doctor asked if my husband was threatening him, because David blocked his exit to the door until all my questions were answered.
Your doctor’s visit will usually not go to this extreme. (Let’s hope not!) I’ve only shared my experience here, so you know how far you may need to go to avoid a fatality. If we didn’t catch it in time, I could have died!
In Part III of TALK with your Doctor! we’ll address the Internet and how good it is in helping you understand more about an illness, disease, and treatment options.
Please be sure to read Part I: Should you bring a friend or relative with you to the doctor’s office?
Brenda Avadian, MA
Print copies of this and share with your clients or fellow support group members.
This is one of our evergreen blog topics. If you are interested in reading our other timeless articles, visit TCV’s Resources & Links page for other Informative Caregiving Articles.
© 2008 Brenda Avadian, MA (Original blog post)