You Can Help Prevent Medical Mistakes

By Greg Kohn

With ever increasing medical costs, many patients are reluctant to seek a second opinion when faced with a medical diagnosis. Yet, this reluctance may not be in the patients’ best interest and could even encourage medical malpractice.

A recent report from Health Affairs shows that doctors are not always honest with their patients. In fact, one-third stated that they do not feel it is important to disclose every mistake to a patient. Eleven percent admitted to lying to a patient in the last year, and 50 percent say that they will downplay the severity of a diagnosis when discussing it with a patient.

These statistics show that patients need to advocate for themselves to protect their health. There are several signs that can indicate it may be a good idea to seek a second opinion.

One area of growing concern is “script happy” doctors who use prescriptions as the first course of treatment. A study in the American Journal of Public Health shows a 39 percent rise in prescriptions from 1999 to 2009. Many believe that these prescriptions were unnecessary, especially where the number of prescriptions was greater than the number of reported patients who actually had the related disorder.

Sleep deprivation is another area of concern. Surgeons who have had less than six hours of sleep prior to a procedure are twice as likely to make mistakes. Yet another concern is a larger patient load. General practitioners see an average of 20 patients per day, decreasing the amount of time spent with each patient and increasing the chance of making mistakes.

Women should also be aware of possible bias. Even when women and men report similar symptoms, male doctors may believe that women’s symptoms are not as significant as reported, or that is it just normal for them to feel a certain way.

It is not unreasonable to ask doctors for their on-call schedule, or to question a course of treatment. Doing research and asking others with similar disorders how they have been treated can help patients advocate for their long-term health in the doctor’s office. If a doctor is unwilling to discuss treatment details and alternatives, it may be time to seek a second opinion or find a new doctor.

Source:, “Doctors behaving badly: 7 types to watch out for,” Kristin Dold, June 3, 2012

About the Author
Greg Kohn is a partner at Nagel Rice and specializes in complex civil litigation cases, including professional malpractice, personal injury, class actions, wrongful death, products liability, and commercial litigation.  He has extensive experience representing clients in both state and federal court. Greg has tried many jury trials to verdict and has recovered over $50 million in settlements and verdicts in all types of personal injury matters including automobile accidents, wrongful death cases, slip and falls, and other catastrophic injury cases. Greg also handles medical malpractice cases, involving misdiagnoses, wrongful birth, and delayed cancer diagnosis. If you have questions regarding this article, you can contact Greg here.