Dangerous Doctors?


I have to get an operation soon for a medical condition that I’ve had for quite a while. I’m used to dealing a lot with doctors and hospitals at this point, but this operation will be pretty significant, and that’s making me really nervous. I understand that doctors are highly trained, but they’re only human, and I worry that mine will make an honest mistake--or, worse yet, will get lazy or negligent and harm me. I’ve asked my doctor about the risks, and he’s been very up-front about what could happen in the surgery if things go wrong. But there’s really no way for me to ask him how likely it is that he is the thing that goes wrong with my surgery! How often do doctors make mistakes or commit malpractice? How safe, in general, is surgery? Experts, I hope you can tell me something that makes me feel a little better!

In general, surgery in the United States is quite safe. Hospitals and other medical care centers know that doctors aren’t infallible, and they strive to create safe environments where key decisions are checked and double-checked, say practitioners at Richmond University Medical Center’s Staten Island immediate care center. Among the things checked are medication decisions, which are the number one cause of medical errors that harm patients (that’s right--there are more medication errors than surgical ones).

Still, mistakes can happen, and sometimes negligence can lead to serious issues for patients, say the Rochester medical malpractice lawyers at DeFrancisco & Falgiatano, LLP. When that happens, patients have a right to sue for malpractice.

So what does all of this mean in terms of raw data? As stated at the outset, the picture is generally a good one for patients in the United States. Still, there’s no denying that patient safety in the U.S. lags in some ways behind that of countries like Sweden and Switzerland, among others. And 30% of patients can deal with some type of complication.

There are things you can do to ensure that you get the best care possible. First, take a look at your doctor and your hospital and make sure that they’re up to snuff. There are resources for checking on the quality of doctors and hospitals, such as the U.S. News and World Report rankings and Consumer Reports rankings. You can also opt to get a second opinion to make sure that you’re getting the right care. And if anything does go wrong down the line, you can turn to attorneys who specialize in medical malpractice cases.

But try not to worry. American healthcare isn’t perfect, but the highly trained doctors that are responsible for our care remain some of the best in the world. We wish you the best with your medical issues and your future care!

“Surgery was the most difficult thing I could imagine. And so I became a surgeon.” -- Abraham Verghese, Cutting for Stone

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