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What it means to be 'respected' in a medical situation

Respect is a fantastic quality, one that everyone hopes to attain or give to other people. But according to one study, respect isn't just a positive vibe -- it could also actually save your life when you're dealing with doctors, nurses and other medical staff members.

This is what a study by Consumer Reports indicates, and the results may surprise you. According to the study, patients who responded and said that their medical staffers didn't seem to respect them were 2.5 times more likely to experience a preventable medical error than patients who felt respected by their medical staffers. "Not being respected" is a bit vague, but there were plenty of respondents who said that they were not treated as adults by medical professionals and that they were frequently interrupted by medical professionals while trying to explain something to them.

Considering we're talking about preventable medical errors here -- the third leading cause of death in the United States behind heart disease and cancer -- this "respect" issue is certainly an important one. So how do you get your medical professional to respect you?

It's equal parts "treat them like you want to be treated" and "do something to break up the monotony." Specifically to the latter, just imagine a doctor's typical day. It's probably a bunch of patients who have very minor issues. Repeat this day after day, week after week, and month after month, and eventually the doctor isn't necessarily going to look at the patients as people. Instead, he or she is going to look at these patients as numbers.

So use some subtle tactics. Request that your doctor actually take a seat so that the two of you -- together, as a team -- can discuss the issue in detail. Tell personal stories that deal with your medical condition to allow your doctor to feel your anxiety over the medical condition.

But always remember the first part of this respect strategy: you have to treat them with respect too. Ask questions and don't be afraid to make your own comments about the situation -- but they are the professionals here. It is on them if a mistake is made, not you.

Source: Forbes, "Consumer Reports Study: Demanding Respect From Doctors May Save Your Life," Robert J. Szczerba, Jan. 19, 2015

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