Trusted Voice® Blog

Thursday, February 18, 2016

Invaluable Lessons Learned Practicing Law Over The Years

This January marked the 27th anniversary of my admittance to the New York State bar. In this blog, I would like to share five invaluable lessons I’ve learned advising and representing people through the years in medical malpractice and injury cases.

  1. Request a copy of every diagnostic test a doctor orders and carefully review it upon receipt. I’ve had clients pass away because their doctors simply failed to inform them the diagnostic tests they ordered came back showing cancer. Don’t assume test results will be reviewed by your doctor or that the results will be communicated to you. Be proactive and safeguard your health; review every test done. It could save your life.  
  2. Examine every prescription to make sure it’s the right drug and the right dosage.  I have represented and consulted a number of individuals who were prescribed drugs they are allergic to, prescribed the wrong drug, and prescribed the correct drug but in the wrong dosage (way too high). I’ve also seen pharmacies give people the wrong drugs, dosages, etc. This can result in very bad, even fatal, consequences. Be proactive and safeguard your health. Do what I do: check every prescription when you get it to make sure it’s the right drug in the right dosage; this is easy because, in addition to naming the drug, the prescription bottle will indicate the shape, color, and identifying number of the drug; open the bottle and make sure the identifying information matches up with what’s inside; if you want to be even more thorough, look the drug up on the internet and make sure the identifying information on the bottle is correct. Hand written prescriptions, often incapable of being read, are a prescription for disaster (pun intended). I have witnessed pharmacists call the prescribing doctor because they cannot read the hand written prescription.  Even though mandatory electronically transmitted prescriptions in New York are forthcoming, mistakes could still happen.
  3. Get a second medical opinion (and maybe even a third).  Multiple individuals I’ve consulted with and represented could have avoided malpractice in the first place had they simply obtained a second opinion from another doctor. Why didn’t they? Because they trusted their doctors so much they either didn’t think about it, or decided against it. It’s not a matter of mistrusting your doctor; it’s a matter of being a good steward and safeguarding your health. Doctors are human beings; they make mistakes. Many of these mistakes and the corresponding physical harm could be avoided by simply obtaining a second opinion. There are client testimonials on my website concerning this.
  4. Get a second opinion from another doctor not affiliated with your doctor’s practice. This can be equally as important as getting a second opinion. I have seen doctors refer patients to doctors in the same practice/group or to doctors with whom they are affiliated in some way for second opinions. I’ve also seen people schedule these second opinions on their own. Here’s the problem: are these other doctors, given their affiliation with your doctor, going to render a truly objective second opinion? You would think the answer is a resounding “yes” – doctors are supposed to do solely what’s in their patient’s best interests. Unfortunately, and sadly, I have seen many doctors cover for the initial doctor. This can be done in a number of ways: by expressly denying the initial doctor made a mistake; by knowing, but failing to inform, the patient of the initial doctor’s mistake; by being so evasive the patient leaves not knowing whether the initial doctor did, or did not make a mistake, etc.
  5. Stay overnight at the hospital with loved ones.  I know it’s a sacrifice, but if possible do it. I have seen major mistakes/omissions made at night in hospitals not only in my practice, but also in regard to family members. Grandparents on both sides of my family, for instance, would have suffered serious harm had it not been for my parents staying overnight at the hospital by their side.

This blog is not meant to imply that all doctors and hospitals make mistakes. Thank God for all of the skilled and conscientious doctors we have. However, when mistakes are made, the consequences can be grave.   

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