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Protecting yourself against medical injuries

If you spend a little time, it isn’t hard to turn up story after story of medical mistakes with serious consequences, especially missed or mistaken diagnoses.

In fact, the National Academy of Medicine (NAM) estimates that you will most likely receive at least one incorrect diagnosis at some point in your life. It’s probably cold comfort to realize that you’re hardly alone and that around 12 million people a year share a similar fate.

So, how can you protect yourself against this particular type of medical malpractice? After all, without a medical degree of your own, it can be hard to convince a doctor that he or she is missing something. Here are some tips you can use:

  • Look at a doctor’s online reviews. Sites like Healthgrades can provide insight into a doctor’s general attitude toward patient care. One or two bad reviews shouldn’t scare you off (no doctor can please everyone), but you should be aware of complaints that fall into patterns. If successive reviews say, “the doctor didn’t listen,” or “my concerns were dismissed,” then you should consider going elsewhere.
  • Go in with a list and a plan. Asking if you should be concerned about a specific symptom or a potential diagnosis that comes to your mind isn’t the same as self-diagnosing, it’s self-advocacy. If your doctor can’t explain why they are ruling out a specific condition, it’s time to look deeper.
  • Ask questions and get a second opinion. Good doctors welcome questions and work with their patients, not against them. If you’re at all unsure of your diagnosis, asking for a second opinion is appropriate — and a confident doctor won’t take your concerns wrongly.

Despite your best efforts, you may still end up with a missed or misdiagnosis. If the wrong medication or the delay in appropriate treatment leaves you worse off than you were before, it may be time to find out what legal rights you have to seek redress.