Can a Doctor’s Disrespectful Manner Lead to Medical Mistakes?

Can a doctor’s poor social skills lead to poor medical care and medical errors? There is evidence that supports this cause and effect relationship.

Consumer Reports surveyed 1,200 patients to explore the treatment they experienced during their hospital stays. The patients who said they were respected by their caregivers were less likely to suffer a medical mistake, according to the results. Examples of respectful treatment cited by Consumer Reports are:

  • A doctor avoiding using medical jargon when speaking with patients
  • A doctor listening to patients and answering their questions
  • A doctor making eye contact with patients while talking to them

Types of Medical Errors

The survey found a link between a shabby doctor-patient relationship and shabby medical care. Patients who felt they were disrespected by the hospital’s medical staff were two-and-a-half times more likely to be a victim of a medical mistake than patients who did not feel similarly. In addition, the patients who reported feeling uncomfortable asking about their medical care were 50 percent more likely to experience a medical error than those who said they were comfortable. The medical errors identified in the study include:

Doctors’ Disrespect Not Uncommon

Those feeling disrespected by healthcare providers are a significant portion of the patient population. The Consumer Reports researchers found that a little over a third of the patients (34 percent) said their treatment preferences weren’t always followed; 21 percent reported unfair treatment or discrimination; and 25 percent said that the hospital healthcare providers didn’t consistently treat them “like a person.”

Many patients understandably are reluctant to complain about the care they are receiving. This same survey found that 20 percent of the patients were noticeably concerned about “bothering” the hospital staff with questions about their treatment.

It is perfectly acceptable if not preferable for patients and their families to pay close attention to the medical care provided by doctors, and to attempt to communicate with everyone on their healthcare team. Patients and family members who feel they are being ignored should ask to speak with those in authority over their care givers.

This is not to suggest that patients are in any way are responsible for the avoidable catastrophic mistakes doctors make. But when a medical error occurs, it often takes a long and in-depth examination to uncover what really happened and why.

So if you are a victim of a critical medical error or had a family member die due to a medical mistake, you may want to speak with an attorney experienced in investigating medical malpractice claims to explore you legal rights.

The choice of a lawyer is an important decision that should not be based solely on advertising.