Patient Safety - Reality Check

Writing Medical Complaints

If you want something to happen as a result of your complaint, the most important thing to do is present a case that they cannot dismiss for lack of evidence, which is what happens to almost all cases.

Some complaints, like complaints about sexual abuse, cannot be backed up by documents, and are unlikely to be believed, especially if you are male. But if no one complains, the culprit can continue the unfriendly behavior forever without anyone suspecting.

If you have just returned from an injurious incident, telephone your state medical board to try to persuade them to investigate it while it is fresh in the minds of the witnesses (something they are unlikely to do) and then immediately send a follow-up hardcopy to them. Later, after you have gotten diagnoses and collected records, submit a more well organized and well documented presentation.

The Public Inquiries Unit

The recipient of your complaint reads sob stories for a living. The severity of your ordeal will not impress and might even annoy. How devastating it is to you personally is not their business. Whether or not the caregiver(s) in question did anything wrong is their business. Don't let that get lost in a pile of what to them will seem only like whining. Objective evidence (see Complaints Form), if it exists, is what they have a harder time ignoring.

Medical complaints that are effective are difficult to write. Sometimes they have to be written over and over and over again before they have the clarity and tone that communicates rather than annoys its readers.

Unfortunately, even if you are a cross between William Shakespeare and Mark Twain and write the clearest and most well supported complaint ever written, they are not on your side and are looking for ways to dismiss your complaint.

Postal Mail

Medical complaints traditionally were filed by fax or email. The subject matter is too sensitive for the person about whom you are complaining to send it in an email. Usually boards accept complaints only through postal mail. Although some finally are starting to put forms online to fill out.

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