You should always ask your doctor questions before surgery or before undergoing a procedure. You need to be fully informed about your diagnosis, the risks and benefits and the existence of any alternative options. In other words, no surgery or procedure should be performed unless you give your doctor your “informed consent.” You should also ask your doctor questions after your surgery if you believe that it was unsuccessful or has led to complications.
Kelley J. Johnson suggests the following questions to ask your doctor before and after surgery or a procedure based on information from the American Medical Association, American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons, Johns Hopkins Medicine and the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality.
If you have suffered harm because your doctor failed to provide complete and accurate information or discussed your surgery or a procedure with you in a way that was deceptive or misleading, it is crucial to protect your rights. A lawyer with experience handling medical malpractice claims can evaluate the facts of your case and help you to determine whether you should take legal action.
At our law firm, we are available to help. If you believe that you have been harmed because you weren’t fully informed about your surgery, call us today at (833) 4MEDMAL or use our online contact form. We can provide a consultation that is free of charge.
Questions to Ask Before Surgery or a Procedure
Before you undergo surgery or a procedure, you should ask the following questions:
Questions to Ask
What is the operation (surgical procedure) or procedure you are recommending?
Your doctor should explain the procedure in language that you can understand, including the steps involved and what the surgery or procedure should accomplish. You should also be told if there are alternative ways to perform the operation and whether the surgery will result in any scars.
Why do I need this operation or procedure?
Surgery may remedy a problem. For example, it can end your pain, repair an injury, excise cancerous tissue or remove a failed organ. Surgery can also be diagnostic or “exploratory.” Your doctor should explain why he or she is suggesting this specific surgical procedure and fully discuss its benefits and risks.
Are there alternatives to this procedure?
Many medical conditions can be treated with medicine or lifestyle changes instead of surgery. This is often called “watchful waiting.” If your condition worsens, you may ultimately need surgery. However, if it stabilizes or gets better, surgery may be postponed indefinitely. Your surgeon should objectively explain the various alternatives, and the pros and cons of each approach.
What if I don’t have this surgery or procedure now or ever?
Your surgeon should explain whether your condition will worsen without surgery or the recommended procedure. This explanation should be a part of your discussion of the alternatives available to you.
What are the risks and possible complications of this surgery or procedure?
There are accepted risks with every surgery and procedure, including post-operative complications. You may be asked to sign a consent form that confirms that you were advised about and understand these risks. Before signing this form, make sure to ask your doctor if there are ways to address complications that may arise after surgery.
What should I expect during recovery?
Your doctor should tell how you should feel in the days after the surgery or procedure. For instance, should you expect to experience fever, nausea or loose or broken stitches? Your doctor should also describe what you will need to do to help yourself heal. You should ask about any medicines, supplies or equipment you will need for your recovery. If the surgeon gives you a pamphlet or other written material with this information, read it and ask about anything that isn’t clear.
What will the procedure cost?
Even with insurance, you will likely be responsible for some of the cost of your procedure and hospitalization before surgery and during recovery. Your surgeon will probably not have a figure for all of the costs surrounding your surgery, but should be able to tell you what his or her fee is and what it covers. For instance, will it cover the number of follow-up consultations the doctor will provide? This is a question for your insurance company or healthcare plan provider, too. If you are covered by Medicare, call 1-800-MEDICARE to find out your share of the surgery’s costs.
Where can I get a second opinion?
Ask for names and contact information for additional board certified physicians who can review your medical records. The physician with whom you are already meeting should provide this information without hesitation and without taking offense. Ask your primary care physician for this information if that will make you more comfortable. Then follow up and meet with a second doctor or a third.
Questions to Ask Following Surgery
It is important to follow up with your doctor after surgery is performed, especially if you are starting to doubt whether the surgery accomplished what is was supposed to do or if you are experiencing complications.
Some questions you may consider asking the doctor are:
- Are the symptoms I’m experiencing (such as fever, nausea or bleeding) common after these types of procedures?
- How long should I expect to experience these side effects?
- Should I get emergency medical assistance for these complications?
- How and when will you know if the surgery was successful?
- If the surgery was not successful, then why didn’t it succeed and what can be done?
You doctor should be honest and thorough in answering your post-operation questions. Unfortunately, physicians are often hesitant to admit when they have made a mistake. They may not be forthright in explaining what happened after a surgery goes wrong. Some doctors may even order subsequent treatments that will cost you additional money without telling you that their own errors made this treatment necessary.
Contact the Law Office of Kelley J. Johnson for a Free Consultation
If you suspect that your doctor is not answering your questions completely and honestly, or if the surgeon is avoiding your questions altogether, it is a sign that you should seek legal help.
Our legal staff is dedicated to seeking answers for our clients. If you were harmed by medical malpractice, we will investigate your case and consult with our team of medical experts to find out what went wrong and who should be held responsible.
To learn more, call us or complete our online contact form. We can schedule a free and confidential review of your case.
- American Medical Association
- American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons
- Johns Hopkins Medicine
- Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality