Doctors and medical errors: signs to be on the lookout for

There's No Substitute for Experience

It's quite common for patients to put blind faith in their doctors. In fact, one study found that 70 percent of people totally trust what their doctor says and never even go searching for a second opinion. And while this isn't to say that all doctors are making mistakes -- as many are completely competent at their jobs -- there are still warning signs that all patients should look out for in order to try and avoid preventable medical errors.

According to the Journal of the American Medical Association, surgeons who slept for less than six hours the night prior to performing a surgery had twice as many operation complications as those surgeons who got enough sleep. And while most will automatically see why it's important for surgeons to get enough rest, keep in mind that practitioners can also end up working 24-hour shifts. A lack of sleep, combined with high client loads, can result in a doctor having clouded judgment. This can lead to an incorrect diagnosis or medication error.

Aside from sleep-deprived doctors, it's also important to look out for bias. According to a study conducted by The Journal of Law, Medicine & Ethics, some physicians will just assume that a woman is exaggerating her symptoms. Because of this -- even though the pain symptoms may be the same for a man -- a woman may not always receive the right treatment due to this perceived exaggeration.

Lastly, while age doesn't necessarily have anything to do with it, it's important to make sure that a doctor is up-to-date on the latest medical breakthroughs. This means that a doctor, whether practicing for five years of 30 years, should be using new, improved and approved diagnostic and screening methods.

In the end, the advice is to ask a lot of questions. Always ask why a medication is being prescribed, or why a certain procedure is being recommended. Also keep track of any medications, symptoms or feedback from the doctor. If symptoms are not improving, or feedback from the doctor is not consistent, these are all signs that it may be time for a second opinion.

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