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A Seattle dentist and oral surgeon, who has been slapped with a boat-load of malpractice suits and was reprimanded for a patient’s death, is being taken to court again – this time for a botched breast reduction on a 15 year old woman.

The non-cosmetic procedure was necessary to eliminate back and neck pain. According to a plastic surgeon who wrote in support of the complaint, the dentist/oral surgeon violated the standard of care by allegedly mis-marking the woman’s breast post-op and placed her nipples cross-eyed. The dentist also left her sutures in too long which left railroad scars on her body.

You might be thinking to yourself, “how could her parents let a dentist operate on her?” – or – “she signed a consent form, so how can she turn around and sue?”

The truth is that medical professionals commit malpractice all of the time. Some doctors, like in the case above, are licenced as surgeons but are not trained in the field that they claim to be professionals in. Without full disclosure of the doctors training – e.g. where they had done their residency or fellowship in the subject – the consent forms are invalid because the patient was not fully informed about the risks involved in having an operation performed by an oral surgeon compared having it done by a plastic surgeon.

The fact of the matter is that anyone can be fooled into thinking that they are talking to a fully trained doctor. The doctor may be fully trained and licenced, but not in the type of medicine that you or your loved-one may need. The question then becomes, “what steps can I take to avoid medical mistakes?"

There are some medical mistakes that a patient has no control of, but there are many others which can be avoided with the proper care. Some simple steps that you can use to help avoid medical mistakes and possible malpractice are:

Recognize Medical Errors To avoid medical errors, you have to first be able to recognize them. Read up on the medical issues that you may be experiencing, and don’t be afraid to ask your doctor to clarify what her or she is telling you. Educating yourself is the first step that you should take when you are faced with a major or minor operation, or even an new prescription.

Get a Second Opinion Before any major non-emergency medical procedure, or even a minor procedure you feel concerned about, it’s a good idea to get another doctor’s opinion. Getting a second opinion isn’t a matter of not trusting your regular doctor, it’s a matter of being as responsible as possible for your own health or the health of a loved one.

Avoid the Emergency Room for Routine Illness When there’s an emergency, the ER is almost always your best option, but for a minor injury or a common cold, it’s better to visit your family doctor or a local walk-in-clinic.

Bring a Loved One or Friend When undergoing a serious medical procedure, bring a loved one or friend that can be your representative, help you think through important decisions, and ask questions that you might not occur to you. During these important times, having a “second pair of eyes and ears” and a second perspective may help keep you out of harm’s way.

Get the Best Care Possible Perhaps the most effective way to avoid medical error is to avoid visiting substandard physicians who may not give you proper medical treatment. The best way to prevent this is to research potential doctors before committing to just one. If you ask the right questions, perform the right research, and consider the most important factors, you will be well on your way to finding the right doctor for your condition and reducing your chances of suffering the consequences of a medical error.

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