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TALK with your Doctor! (Part II of III) What should I do when the doctor speaks waaaay over my head?

Posted Sep 07 2008 8:38pm
What should you (or your patient advocate) do when the doctor says something that you don't understand?

Stop him/her!

One reason malpractice suits abound is lack of proper follow-up care when the patient and his/her family does not fully understand the doctor's instructions for the patient at home. When something goes wrong, neither the patient or the doctor is happy. Then, as often seems to be the case, lawyers step in to take advantage of an already awful situation and we begin moving away from better medical care to expensive lawsuits and doctors covering their a$$et$.

How can we avoid these misunderstandings?

Ask questions.

It is better to paraphrase, repeat, write down, and have the doctor listen to and read your words and hear your understanding of his/her recommended careplan, than risk your life.

Yes, doctors are busy and seem to whip in and out of appointments. But your LIFE depends on it. Stand your ground and be sure you understand fully what your doctor is recommending.

A personal example will illustrate:

After outpatient surgery, my doctor explained to me the careplan. I kept asking questions and he seemed rushed and didn't want to give me the time. Finally feeling pressured, I stopped asking and took what I understood to be the post-surgical careplan and what I could expect for healing.

Three days later, the wound healed closed and I began running a fever and eventually went into shock. Rushed to the medical center, I was given IV and oral antibiotics to stem the infection that had gone through my body, because the wound healed closed too soon.

I had to return to surgery, have the wound re-opened and cleaned out.

The time, I insisted that my husband, David, accompany me into the surgical room. David stood his ground with the doctor until ALL MY QUESTIONS WERE ANSWERED to my satisfaction.

At one point, the doctor asked if my husband was threatening him, because David blocked his exit to the door until all my questions were answered.

Your doctor's visit will usually not go to this extreme. (Let's hope not!) I've only shared my experience here, so you know how far you need to sometimes reach to avoid a fatality. If we didn't catch it in time, I could have died!

In Part III of TALK with your Doctor! we'll address the Internet and how good it is in helping you understand more about an illness, disease, and treatment options.

For information about Brenda Avadian, MA, please click on Brenda Avadian's BIO

Please be sure to read Part I (July 29): Should you bring a friend or relative with you to the doctor's office?

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