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Know your rights as a patient in Texas: 3 questions to ask your surgical team

Here are three questions you can ask to check the background of your surgical team before you or a loved one is wheeled into an operating room.

DALLAS — The storyline involving Dr. Raynaldo Ortiz may lead to questions about your rights as a patient. 

The Dallas anesthesiologist is accused of tampering with IV bags. In a jailhouse interview with WFAA, Ortiz denied the allegations.

Here are three questions you can ask to check the background of your surgical team before you or a loved one is wheeled into an operating room. 

Is my doctor board certified? 

The Texas Medical Board licensing website lists whether a doctor is board certified. While one attorney told our investigates team she sees more malpractice lawsuits involving doctors without board certification, neurosurgeon Nimesh H. Patel said board certification doesn't always mean you're the best doctor. 

 "I don't think that's necessary," Dr. Patel said. "Even if they weren't board certified, would that change your decision? How do I know I can establish trust with a person that I just met-- or that is going to operate on me or my loved one? A lot of that requires asking questions that are not straightforward, non-scientific." He said selecting a surgeon comes down to word of mouth and "trusting your gut."

Can I find out if my hospital or center has any pending lawsuits? Or whether any complaints have been filed against my doctor recently? 

Bottom line, no, not before final orders are issued. Pending Texas Medical Board investigations are secret. Often, it takes years from the time a complaint is filed for it to work its way through the system. In the interim, you can search but nothing shows up publicly. Meaning a doctor's record may appear clean on the Medical Board profile page, but pending complaints aren't there at all.

Why? The Medical Board says this protects doctors due process rights. Patient advocates say it potentially puts patients in danger.

 "[The] Texas Medical Board is broad state governance that accepts any type of complaint," Dr. Patel said. "Just because your physician has had a complaint filed against them doesn't mean they're bad physicians. Sometimes it's necessary to understand what happened." 

What's the best way to connect with my surgeon for the best outcome? 

Instead of asking "have you done this before?" ask "Is this a routine procedure?" That offers insight into your doctor's experience. 

Ask "when can I get back to work?"

"When you say that sentence, I know I have a motivated patient in front of me and will try to do my best to make sure they get back to their routine as fast as possible," Dr. Patel said.

Finally, see the surgical team as human, not just as people solving your problem. 

"Before you go into surgery say, 'thank you for taking care of me.' It's about how you make them feel, Dr. Patel said.

The Texas Department of State Health Services collects reports of "preventable adverse events" made by surgery centers and hospitals. But only certain types of mistakes are considered reportable. 

According to what state health officials told our investigates team, the cardiac events that happened at Baylor Surgicare North Dallas this past summer do not qualify as reportable.

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