How and when to change doctors when a medical malpractice action is pending?
May 31, 2012 11:47 AM   Subscribe

Recently I sustained a permanent disability due to surgical negligence. Several malpractice firms are willing to take my case on contingency, and I am in the process of deciding which attorney to go with. In the meantime, I am continuing to receive care from the negligent surgeon. Obviously I need to end this relationship and find a new specialist. How do I make the transition? 

I assume that I should find a new specialist before I start the legal process. But how do I explain to my new specialist why I'm leaving the care of the old surgeon? I am worried that I won't receive the same quality of care if my new medical provider knows that I am involved in a malpractice case. Also, how do I explain my request to transfer my medical records while I'm still supposed to be receiving postoperative care? Won't the old surgeon know that something weird's going on?

Please help me with any advice to make this transition be as smooth and drama-free as possible. I'm in the USA (if that's relevant) and my throwaway is
posted by anonymous to Law & Government (4 answers total)
Just get a new doctor. They will request a transfer of medical records so you won't need to, they won't pry as to why you're changing, and if they do, just say "I wanted to see someone new" -- you don't need to explain anything, even if somehow someone asks directly why you're changing.
posted by brainmouse at 11:51 AM on May 31, 2012

Obviously I need to end this relationship and find a new specialist. How do I make the transition?

With the advice of your new attorney.
posted by DarlingBri at 11:56 AM on May 31, 2012 [13 favorites]

If you go to a new doctor who doesn't notice you're suffering a permanent disability from negligence, you should probably move on. All you have to say is, "I wasn't satisfied with the work" and the doctor should say, "Yeah, I get that."

People change doctors all the time. It is the boringest, most tedious, sit-on-hold process in the entire world. It would take significant effort for there to be drama involved.
posted by Lyn Never at 12:06 PM on May 31, 2012 [2 favorites]

Are you worried that your new specialist will see you as a problem patient, or something? You have a permanent disability because of surgical negligence. It should be obvious to your new specialist that your malpractice claim is justified and logical, and they shouldn't treat you any differently to any other new patient--perhaps even with more compassion for your situation. As long as you aren't defensive or aggressive with the new specialist or their office staff, I can't see why they would treat you badly.

Think about malpractice suits this way... when I worked as a medical practice manager, occasionally lawyers would seek my employer's opinion on a malpractice suit. Like your lawyers might call Dr Good Reputation, a specialist in the type of surgery you had who practices in a different state, and ask her to review your case and identify what should have been done differently. She might be fine with doing that. Doctors aren't united in hate of malpractice suits... malpractice suits are just a part of practising medicine. Your new doctor really shouldn't hold it against you that something bad happened with your previous doctor, and you're pursuing the justice that the system offers. The only way that could be a black mark against you is if your claim were bogus or overblown. But several malpractice firms are willing to take your case, and you have a permanent disability. This is clearly not the case. Your situation is totally understandable. You should have no problems whatsoever on the medical side.

On the legal side, as DarlingBri pointed out, get advice from your lawyer.
posted by snorkmaiden at 2:19 PM on May 31, 2012 [1 favorite]

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