Tips for Choosing a Great Surgeon


When you’re in an ambulance with emergency lights on to the hospital, you have no time and no way to choose your doctor. If surgery is required, you’ll likely end up with whatever doctor happens to be on call at that hospital at that time. But there are plenty of other occasions when you do have the luxury of time to find Dr. Right.

Yet not many people take the effort to avoid ending up with Dr. Wrong. This is likely because many of us do not realize the terrible difference it can make to end up in the hands of Dr. Wrong. Or many of us do not realize how many Dr. Wrongs are out there.

How to Find a Good Surgeon

To help you find Dr. Right, we at Grewal Law PLLC have devised a simple two-step process with the aid of the AARP and Patrick Malone’s The Life You Save: Nine Steps to Finding the Best Medical Care-And Avoiding the Worst.

First, get a short list of potential doctors:

  • Ask a friend or family member who is a health care professional to give you a short list of names based on their knowledge of the local medical scene.
  • Ask the doctor who diagnosed the problem for a referral. They will have a whole network of surgeons to whom they have sent other patients.
  • Check the internet. Verify both their license on the state’s licensing website and their board certification, the latter of which is an extra step many doctors choose to take to demonstrate their proficiency in their specialty.

Now that you have done some preliminary research on some potential surgeons, it’s time for the second step: the interview. Ask these questions so you can make an informed decision:

  • Do I really need surgery?
    • A busy surgeon means a lot of doctors have confidence in them; they will be more candid than a surgeon who has a lot of time on their hands.
  • What is the exact procedure you would recommend for a family member if they had the same thing I have?
  • Who would you ask to do the procedure on a close family member if you couldn’t?
  • How often do you do this kind of procedure?
    • Think twice if you hear “a few times a year.”
  • Is there anyone at your institution who does these procedures more than you do? If so, would you mind if I speak to them?
    • A defensive response to this question raises some red flags; think twice.
  • How long have you been doing this procedure?
    • Focus on the volume of recent cases.
  • Do you have fellowship training in this procedure?
    • This is not a deal breaker, but it is good to know. A fellowship is what comes after residence when the surgeon wants deeper training in a subspeciality.
  • What are the most common problems that happen with this surgery? What do you do to keep them to a minimum? How often do they happen even when everyone is careful?
    • Anyone who says they’ve never had a complication or that there is no risk should be avoided—they aren’t being honest.
  • What is your surgical wound infection rate? How does that compare to other surgeons at your hospital?
  • Who is doing the critical parts of my surgery?
    • This is important whenever you are at an institution that trains new doctors. You have a right to decline to have these trainees practice on you. On the informed consent form you sign before surgery, look for any language like “I give consent to Dr. Right or his or her designee to do the surgery,” and just cross out the designee.
  • Who will be in charge of my postoperative care? If it’s not you, the surgeon, why not? How often can I expect to see you while I’m still in the hospital?

Although it may feel awkward to ask these questions, especially to a busy physician, it is crucial to learn this information to give yourself the best chance of a successful outcome.

Further, it is always best to have an advocate (like a family member) with you to help you navigate these discussions and have a second set of ears. If the surgeon doesn’t have time to answer these questions, that’s not the surgeon for you. Once you get these answers, if you have any reservations or concerns over what you learned, get a second opinion. Once you are satisfied with the doctor’s answers, then you will be able to make an informed decision so you can (hopefully) end up in the hands of Dr. Right.

Unfortunately, surgical errors are all too common. At Grewal Law PLLC, our Michigan malpractice attorneys will fight to recover your full and fair compensation. Put our over 100 years of collective legal experience to work for you!

Contact Grewal Law PLLC online or call (888) 211-5798 for a free consultation.

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