When doctors make mistakes, people often talk about how "doctors are people, too" and how they can't always avoid these errors. And, to some degree, that is true. People make mistakes in every profession. Construction workers, firefighters, office workers, bartenders: They all make mistakes.
But the stakes are very high for doctors. They hold their patients' health in their hands. Those patients have a right to hold them to a high standard.
Plus, just noting that people make mistakes does not excuse those mistakes. Often, doctors' errors stem from things that they could easily correct, like an inability to listen to their patients.
Are they too busy?
One potential issue is when doctors have too much do to. They rush into the room and listen to a patient for maybe five minutes. Then they're running on to the next room to do it all again. None of the patients really feel like the doctor listened to them, and they all leave dissatisfied.
"As physicians, we're a busy bunch," said one professor of surgery. "But our most important time spent in a day is with our patients. If we don't allow them to give us a complete picture of their overall health, we can't help them effectively maximize it. It's best to go with the doctor who puts down the chart and actively listens to what's going on with you. You'll both be better for it."
Still, that type of medical care is hard to find. It can also become very frustrating. Some people simply choose to leave when they feel like the doctor will not take what they say seriously, perhaps relying on assumptions and not giving them the information or support they need.
"It all comes down to communication and whether you feel like you're asking questions and they're not being answered," noted one expert, relating her own story of going to the doctor to ask if she should have a procedure done or not. "He made a big leap – that I didn't want to have it done because I was afraid of the pain – and kept reassuring me that it was virtually pain-free. That's not what I was asking. After three rounds, I concluded that we weren't going to get to a productive place, and I didn't go back."
She left before things could go wrong, but how many people feel like they do not have any other options and decide to stick it out with a doctor who does not actually understand their concerns and their needs? How many people suffer from mistakes that doctors could have avoided if they would have just listened to their patients in the first place?
If you find yourself in this position, no matter why your doctor didn't listen to you, make sure you know your rights. You may be able to seek compensation after serious medical errors.