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Preventing medical errors: what can patients do? (PART 1)

In our last post we began a discussion on medical malpractice in Canada. Many lives are affected by medical errors each year. While there is no way for a patient to absolutely deter a medical error, there are steps an individual can take in order to protect him or herself.

Surgical errors are a big issue in Canada and around the world. A patient entrusts his or her life to a medical professional when undergoing surgery. In many cases, a patient is sedated during the procedure and cannot speak on his or her own behalf.

With that being said, the best time to try to prevent errors is pre-surgery. If you are going into surgery, discuss the procedure with your surgeon. It may seem weird or even uncomfortable to talk about the basics of the surgery with your surgeon because you may feel you are questioning their knowledge. But keep in mind that this may make a huge difference. You are likely not the only patient the surgeon is working on that day, so having a discussion about the surgery is always a good idea. While having surgery on the wrong body part is rare, it does happen from time to time. The surgeon should also be aware of any preexisting conditions or concerns that you may have.

Another good piece of advice is to choose a hospital or a surgeon that has a lot of experience in performing the procedure you need. According to research, patients tend to have better outcomes if they choose hospitals that have a lot of experience with their specific condition.

In our next post we will take a look at medication errors and provide some tips on protecting yourself.

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