As The Boston Globe continues to report on the unsafe practice of concurrent surgeries, we want to remind patients and health care consumers that you have legal rights when you seek medical treatment.
In 2015, The Boston Globe Spotlight Team reported on the practice of concurrent, overlapping surgeries at hospitals in Massachusetts and across the country. Concurrent surgery occurs when a surgeon has one patient still in surgery and starts a procedure on another patient. Patients were not informed of the practice.
This month, the U.S. Senate Finance Committee urged hospitals to clearly prohibit the practice.
Whether you have surgery planned or not, now is a good time to review your legal rights as a Massachusetts patient.
Research your doctor online. In Massachusetts, you can research your doctor’s professional history in the Physician’s Profile database on the Massachusetts Board of Registration’s website. This database will answer questions such as:
- How long the physician has been licensed in Massachusetts.
- Whether the physician has made a medical malpractice payment in the past 10 years.
- Whether the physician has had any criminal convictions in the past 10 years.
- Whether the physician has been subject to hospital or board discipline.
To learn more, we invite you to read our article: “Do You Know Your Doctor’s Safety Record? Find Out Now.”
Massachusetts Patients’ Bill of Rights. Massachusetts General Law c. 111, Sec. 70E details the Patients’ Bill of Rights. As a patient, your rights include the right to participate in the development and implementation of your plan of care and to have a patient advocate with you during treatment. If you are having surgery, we encourage you to bring a patient advocate to take notes and assert your patient rights when needed.
To learn more, we invite you to read our article: “Preventing Medical Errors.”
Your Right to Your Medical Records. Under Massachusetts Law, you have a right to your medical records. Many physicians’ offices will now provide these records online. If you are treated at a hospital, look for the hospital’s website page for its medical records or health information office. This page will explain the rules for requesting medical records and fees charged.
To learn more, we invite you to read our article: “Getting Your Medical Records.”
Concurrent Surgeries. If you are having surgery, you have the right to ask the hospital or medical facility if it uses the practice of concurrent surgeries and if you will be treated by a physician who is responsible for one or more surgeries at the same time.
About Breakstone, White & Gluck
The Boston medical malpractice lawyers at Breakstone, White & Gluck have over 100 years combined experience handling personal injury and medical malpractice cases at Massachusetts hospitals. Our lawyers have obtained multi-million dollar settlements for patients who have been seriously injured or killed by surgical malpractice and medical errors.
Hospitals need always be accountable for their patient safety efforts. But their successes and failures move into the spotlight next week during Patient Safety Awareness Week.
It’s a good time for the public to learn about the Massachusetts hospitals and medical offices they frequent – and ask how they can better protect themselves from medical malpractice and medical errors. Here are some tips from the Massachusetts medical malpractice lawyers at Breakstone, White & Gluck:
1) Check Your Doctor’s Medical License. You can learn about a doctor’s safety record before even calling his or her office for an appointment. The Massachusetts Board of Registration in Medicine offers patients the Physician’s Profile online database. Consumers can access a wealth of information from their own computer, including how long a physician has been licensed in Massachusetts and whether a physician has made a medical malpractice payment in the past 10 years.
To visit the Massachusetts Physician’s Profile database, click here.
2) Obtain Your Medical Records. It’s important to obtain a copy of your medical records if you suspect medical malpractice. In Massachusetts, you have an absolute right to get copies, whether you were treated in a doctor’s office or a hospital.
Call the medical provider and request your records. You will have to sign an authorization form that states you authorize the release of records in compliance with HIPPA, a federal law passed to protect confidentiality of medical records.
Request the complete “page-by-page” chart of your medical care. You will have to pay a copying fee so request an invoice beforehand to be prepared.
Most important about requesting your medical records is do it immediately following treatment. Medical malpractice lawyers often see medical records in their cases have been altered, making it harder to prove medical negligence occurred.
To learn more about obtaining your Massachusetts medical records, click here.
3) Consider Asking A Family Member Or Friend To Act As Your Patient Advocate. You should always participate in your own patient care. But when in the hospital, many people can benefit from having a patient advocate watch out for them.
Ask someone close to you to act as your advocate. This person can help you by monitoring medications, being present when physicians make rounds and making sure medical professionals always practice good hygiene. A good patient advocate will also be prepared to ask doctors and nurses questions.
To learn more about the role of patient advocate, click here.
4) Learn About The Massachusetts Patients’ Bill of Rights. Be aware that Massachusetts General Laws include a Patients’ Bill of Rights. Among the protections provided: the right to refuse treatment by students and other staff, the right to refuse participation in research studies and the right to informed consent.
To learn more about the Massachusetts Patients’ Bill of Rights, click here.
5) Work to Prevent Medicine Errors. Medication errors result from use of improper medicine and the improper dosage.
Make sure all your doctors know every medication you take. Bring a written list to each appointment and make your doctors aware of changes since your last visit.
Before leaving a doctor’s office, make sure you know what medicine you are supposed to pick up at the pharmacy and how long you should take it. Write down the name and dose of the medicine, then carefully compare it to the medicine bottles before leaving the pharmacy. Watch closely for unfamiliar abbreviations on medication bottles and whether you are receiving a brand name medicine or generic.
For more tips on how to prevent medication errors, click here for information from the Institute of Medicine.