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5 steps for patients to avoid medical malpractice

It is the duty of the doctor and the rest of the medical team to provide a reasonable standard of care to the patient. If you go to the hospital for an operation and the surgeon seems like he or she is not meeting that standard, it may be necessary to act on your own behalf to reduce your chances of becoming the victim of a surgical error.

After all, most people would rather not be harmed by medical malpractice than be forced to assert their rights in court later. Here are five tips for how to protect yourself the next time you are about to have surgery:

1. Pick the right hospital. If possible, choose a facility that has performed your procedure many times. Extensive practice tends to result in better results for patients.

2. Hand washing. Hospitals are full of germs, which can spread easily if staff members don’t wash their hands before touching a patient. Don’t be afraid to ask any nurse or other medical professional who is about to touch you if they have washed their hands first.

3. Communicate. One reason that errors like wrong-site surgery occur is because of confusion due to lack of communication. When meeting with your surgeon, make sure that she and everyone else on the team understand that, for example, it is your left kidney, not your right, that needs to be operated on.

4. Bring in an advocate. If you are feeling poorly or nervous about the surgery, you may miss signs that a mistake is about to occur. Having a friend or relative with you could provide an extra set of eyes.

5. If in doubt, ask. Your health could be at stake.

These tips were provided by the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services’ Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality. Readers can find more information here.

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