If you and your attorney(s) have decided to file a medical malpractice suit against a healthcare professional, be ready for a long and possibly arduous experience. It now becomes your responsibility to prove that he or she has not fulfilled the requisite professional responsibilities.
Let’s leave the details for you and your attorney to discuss. What I want to focus on here is the role a forensic document examiner (FDE) can play in accumulating potential supporting evidence for your claim. Before you read on, please bear in mind that even after a thorough examination of the documents involved in your case, there may not be any perceivable tell-tale signs of wrong-doing among the paperwork. It is up to your attorney to prove whether to analyze the documentation connected to your case. However, one never knows what is lurking (or mysteriously missing) among the written papers in your patient file.
Following are some of the features a FDE will look for:
- Overwriting or changes
- White-out or erasures
- Inserted pages
- Inappropriate dating
- Missing pages
- Indentations from adjacent pages
- Handwriting present
- Writing devices used
As with any form of written records or notations, just because there are changes or corrections present, does not necessarily make them suspect. We all make errors and hopefully correct them before they become part of the patient’s permanent history. On the other hand, corrections made in response to a pending law suit will surely raise a red flag.
How do we tell? Well, sometimes we cannot tell when the correction was made, but here are some signs that arouse our suspicions:
- Use of different inks for the same entry
- Inconsistent handwriting characteristics within the same entry
- Indentations of the first entry on an adjacent page, but not the correction (or vice-verse)
- Notes normally written at the time of each occurrence appear to have been written all at once
- Absence of indentations on a page that should have been among the pages affixed to the file at the time the entries were made
For most malpractice attorneys, it is standard practice to have the physical medical chart and other records examined and analyzed by a Forensic Document Examiner for suspect inclusions and missing information. Considering the potential for deception in the patient records, it could be a very wise decision, indeed.
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