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How patients can protect themselves against medical errors

Arizona residents may be aware of a neighboring state's efforts to curb hospital errors. Hundreds of hospitals have been publicly shamed through news releases that describe details of medical and surgical errors that have happened in California. But the rates of medical errors in that state have not reduced significantly since this shaming system has been in place. Across the country, medical errors are still a significant problem, so patient advocates have advised patients to be prepared to protect themselves when seeking medical treatment.

Asking questions is encouraged for patients who are seeking or about to undergo medical procedures. A patient has a right to refuse treatment or ask about alternatives. Hospitals tend to have better results with procedures that are performed there frequently, so if a hospital staff is not very familiar with a procedure, a patient could request that it be performed at another facility.

Patients can also make requests, including surgical checklists that can help the surgeon to avoid errors, clear medication labeling, hand-washing for all staff before any examinations or procedures and a double-check to make sure the patient and entire procedural staff understand what procedure is to be undertaken and on what part of the body.

In addition to asking, patients are advised to give information to be certain that the medical staff knows it prior to performing any procedure. This includes known allergies, lists of medications and vaccination records.

Post-procedural care is sometimes where medical errors occur, so patients are advised to make sure they are given and understand all of their discharge instructions. Follow-up appointments are important and can be made before the patient leaves the facility.

No doctor can guarantee a positive result for every medical procedure, but when a negative result occurs because a doctor or member of his or her staff did something wrong, it could be a case of medical malpractice. Surgical errors are an alarmingly common occurrence. Legally, doctors can still be held accountable for errors even if they carry malpractice insurance.

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Law Offices of Raymond J. Slomski, P.C.

2929 North Central Avenue Suite 700 Phoenix, AZ 85012 Phone: 602-635-7603 Fax: 602-230-8707 Phoenix Law Office Map