Advances in the medical field abound. From new procedures to medical devices, medical innovations designed to make our lives better are many. In some cases, these advances do result in a happier, healthier life for patients. In others, the story of the application of these advances may not have a happy ending.
A recent piece in The Atlantic illustrates this predicament by sharing two patient stories. One involved a patient that was actively engaged in his care. A patient that questioned recommended treatment - a patient that essentially fired his doctors when they could not provide answers or refused to meet him to discuss their treatment recommendations.
The other patient was likely the more common example. This patient trusted his physicians. He trusted his medical providers. When they recommended a treatment he asked the basic questions. He asked if it was a common treatment, if the practicing physician had experience. The answers were favorable, so he moved forward with the treatment.
Unfortunately the two patients had very different outcomes. Both were recommended to get a heart test. One refused the test because it was too invasive as it involved the use of a catheter threaded through an artery in the heart. The other followed the doctor's recommendation. The test led to another recommendation: a stent. This recommendation is common after the test and would likely have been the result for both patients. The patient got the stent and was put on additional medication. The stent ultimately contributed to the second patient's death.
The other patient's story has a happy ending. He sought additional opinions. He ultimately changed his diet and lifestyle and was able to improve his health without the need for an invasive procedure.
What can we learn from these patients? These patients provide an important lesson: when it comes to medical care we are often our own best advocates. Not every recommended medical procedure is necessary. Push for answers and do some research.
However, when patients are injured by a questionable medical procedure the physician and medical staff can be held accountable. This is one of the many reasons the medical malpractice field has evolved. It is a process intended to help patients have the funds they need to cover costs associated with poor medical care while also holding negligent medical practitioners accountable for their actions.