The Best Case Never Happens
Sometimes I'm asked by other lawyers, or at a party: "What's a 'good' case?"
The person injured from malpractice never asks this question. They would, 100% of the time, be far happier if the malpractice had never happened in the first place.
We can bring some good out of a bad situation. And, by bringing the right cases, we help to deter poor medical practice. But just as our clients, we'd be happy if malpractice was less common than it is.
Some malpractice situations recur in patterns. From our experience, I'd like to offer some suggestions on how to lessen your chances of "having a good case":
1. Be a responsible patient. Patients should be responsible to do what they can, just as doctors are responsible to do what they can. Give an honest, accurate history. Take your medications. Go to follow up appointments.
2. Go to the hospital (and other appointments) with trusted family or friends. Sometimes an insistent relative is needed to get a nurses attention. The elderly in particular benefit from someone to help discuss treatment options, provide history, and understand instructions.
3. Get second opinions, particularly before surgery. The vast majority of patients do not get a second opinion before surgery. It would be unfair to "blame" a patient for doing what almost everyone does, and trusting their doctor. Some doctors (particularly ones to look out for) even discourage second opinions. But that said, it's never a bad idea to get a second opinion.
4. Be especially careful around weekends and holidays. This is when hospitals are often understaffed, or staffed mostly by junior personnel. Maybe don't schedule that elective surgery just before Memorial Day weekend. Maybe ask more questions of that "on call" doctor over Christmas, who may not have taken time to go over your chart.
5. Go with your instincts. You might not have a medical degree, but your instincts might tell you when something "doesn't feel right." Don't ignore that little voice: it may be time to ask more questions, or reconsider your options.
It’s never fair to "blame the patient" for not knowing more than their doctor, or for trusting their doctor. But it's sometimes possible, if you're vigilant and also lucky, to prevent what might otherwise have been another "good case."
Laurence M. Deutsch