Godfrey, Leibsle, Blackbourn & Howarth, S.C.
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Elkhorn, WI

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Doctors avoid medical malpractice through dishonesty?

In Elkhorn and throughout Wisconsin, having a relationship with your doctor requires a certain amount of trust. After all, they are privy to confidential and sometimes embarrassing medical information about all of their patients. But what if your doctor was not completely honest with you or withheld important misdiagnosis information to avoid doling out a hard truth or to avoid a lawsuit? A recent study found that doctors sometimes avoid telling their patients the truth, sometimes to avoid medical malpractice suits.

The 2009 study found an overall disturbing trend in the medical profession. A third of doctors who were surveyed said they did not believe that doctors should admit to making mistakes, even though there is growing evidence that just saying the words “I’m sorry” is more likely to help a doctor avoid being sued. Over half surveyed admitted that they gave an overly optimistic outlook to what was a grim prognosis, and one out of 10 doctors also admitted they had lied to a patient within the last year.

Other results were less surprising. Some doctors have struggled over telling parents about a baby’s chances to live when they know the odds are not favorable, and others have sometimes scared their patients into making healthier lifestyle choices. However, it appears that with technology at their patient’s fingertips, it is becoming more difficult to avoid telling patients the truth. Patients are coming into the office prepared to ask questions after doing online research, and some doctors even allow patients to access their own medical records.

A trusting relationship with your doctor is a must. Although they are likely afraid of medical malpractice lawsuits, a serious mistake can detrimentally affect someone’s quality of life and result in significant medical costs. For someone injured in such a manner, they and their family likely face tough decisions in assessing the viability for filing a successful claim to recover damages that are authorized by Wisconsin law. The best course of actions would appear to include a focused effort to educate oneself concerning all of the facts and circumstances, followed by making an informed decision about how to proceed.

Source: Star Tribune, “Study: Some doctors not always honest with patients, shading prognosis, not revealing errors,” Lauran Neergaard, Feb. 8, 2012

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