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When physicians and medical care providers fail to communicate or miscommunicate in the treatment of a patient it can be deadly. Kenneth Margolin, a Boston Attorney, highlights what can happen when there is an operating room miscommunication.

Surgical malpractice with catastrophic results are often caused by miscommunication amongst members of the operating team. The very term operating “team” connotes the idea of communication that is fundamental to any team.

Unfortunately, that is often a misnomer. The more specialized medical expertise has become, the more important the notion of the team approach and the need to assure that all care providers talk to each other to understand the global care of the patient rather than the microscopic approach often taken by individual surgeons.

Miscommunication or lack of communication is not however limited to operating room settings. Primary care physicians are under the same obligation and duty to communicate their patients medical history, their findings, and their concerns to other involved care providers when there is a ongoing medical situation. For example, I’ve represented a young child whose physicians missed the diagnosis of a carcinoid tumor because the primary care pediatrician, the pediatric pulmonologist and the surgeon failed to communicate their individual findings to each other and as a result, an unnecessary surgery was performed on this young girl which failed to address the disease altogether and caused further damage and increased long term risk.

In order to assure adequate communication by care providers, patients should request that their physicians speak to each other when multiple care providers are involved in treatment and patients should confirm that these discussions did in fact take place. It is also a good idea to obtain copies of medical records to take to consultations for second opinions or when seeing a specialist on referral for a specific medical condition.

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