November 19, 2011

The Joint Commission Resources (“JCR”) is a national organization dedicated to helping health care organizations in the U.S. to improve the quality of medical care and patient safety. The mission of JCR is “to continuously improve the safety and quality of health care in the United States and in the international community through the provision of education, publications, consultation, and evaluation services.” In short, to help prevent situations that may become the basis for medical malpractice claims.


The JCR published a brochure entitled “Help Prevent Medical Test Mistakes” in which it provided practical tips for patients to help them understand how they can be their own medical advocates and help prevent medical malpractice mistakes. In order to reduce the chances of a medical mistake causing you to be injured or worse, you should consider the following:

Ask your doctor if there are any foods, drink, or activities you should avoid (and for how long) both before the testing and after the testing is completed.

Ask your doctor if you should take your regular medications and herbal supplements before, during, and after the testing (and for how long you should not take them, if so instructed).

Ask you doctor if there is anything you need to do or take to prepare for the medical test.

Ask your doctor if there is any pain or discomfort or side effects associated with the test so that you can prepare yourself for the test and so that you know if something you experience is expected or unexpected.

If you are asked to sign any forms regarding a medical test, make sure you fully read and understand the forms before you sign them. Ask questions and request further information until you understand the contents of the forms. You have a right to be informed regarding your medical care and treatment and to participate in your care.

To avoid mislabeling mistakes, the person performing the medical test or obtaining a sample from you should ask you for your name and date of birth to confirm your identity. The containers for the samples should be marked with your name and date of birth and immediately sealed.

Make sure you understand the purpose of the medical test and the name of the test so that you can confirm at the time of the testing that the test you are taking is the one that was ordered by your doctor. When in doubt, ask questions or call your doctor.

If your test requires you to be given  a “contrast agent” (a liquid that is ingested or injected that highlights organs and blood vessels for x-rays, CT scans, and other medical testing), make sure that you advise the test technician if you are pregnant or nursing or if you experience symptoms such as itching or difficulty breathing after the contrast agent is administered.

If you are scheduled to have an MRI scan (magnetic resonance imaging), which uses very powerful magnets to create views of the inside of the body, make sure that you do not have any metal objects on, in, or near you while you are in the MRI scanner room because the powerful magnets, even when the machine is turned off, can quickly pull metal objects into the scanner (such as portable oxygen tanks) and/or heat metal objects. Make sure you advise the MRI technician if you have any implants or possibly have any metal on or in your body (internal metal objects can move within the body and/or heat up rapidly during an MRI scan). (For example, years ago there was a medical malpractice claim arising out of the death of a young boy who was undergoing an MRI scan when an oxygen tank that was not removed from the room was violently pulled into the scanner and killed the young boy.)

Once the medical tests are completed, promptly follow up with your doctors to obtain and understand the test results (make sure that you ask any questions you may have regarding the test results until you fully understand the results and their significance to your medical condition and treatment) and to arrange for any necessary follow-up or speciality care.

If despite your efforts you are injured as a result of medical testing, you may have a claim for medical malpractice. Visit our website or call us toll free 800-295-3959 to be connected with medical malpractice lawyers in your state who may be able to help you with your medical malpractice claim.

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