How to Advocate for Yourself in the Healthcare System

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By Jan Marin, Senior Associate & Lawyer and Brenda Agnew, Client Liaison

Finding your way around the health care system can be challenging at the best of times. But if you or a loved one is ill or in crisis, it can be especially hard. You may feel as though you’re getting the run-around, that no one is listening to your concerns, or answering your questions.  Sometimes it’s as simple as not understanding the process or a lack of communication from a healthcare provider. Most people working in the health care system sincerely want to help you if they can, they did choose a caretaking profession after all. In this blog, we’ll offer tips for advocating for yourself while navigating the healthcare system, in hopes that your outcome and satisfaction may be improved.

Be prepared

A clear message is important when you are asking others for assistance. You should know what you are advocating for (for example: more testing, a review of your file by a specialist, a second opinion) and be prepared to explain why you feel it is necessary. Information is power. If you are able to do some research before your visit, you may be able to prepare some well-informed questions to ask when meeting with a medical provider. Remember, your Google search doesn’t equal a medical provider’s training and degree; but you could politely ask them to explain why they have come to a different conclusion about your condition than you have. It is also appropriate to ask why they are recommending one potential treatment over another. These discussions should be respectful and thoughtful. Keeping good records – of your own research, of your visits, what your medical providers are telling you, and of your symptoms – is also important. Having these records at your fingertips will be helpful if you need to answer questions or to show what steps you’ve taken along the way.

A team effort

If you are ill or you know you may have some difficulty communicating or understanding what medical providers are telling you, it can help to bring a trusted friend or family member along with you. A second set of ears and a hand to hold for emotional support can do wonders if you are nervous or having trouble focussing on what’s being said.Identifying other people who may be able to help you (for example, a hospital’s patient advocate, an ombudsman, or a medical malpractice lawyer) can be important if you need to take action beyond what you can do on your own.Of course, whether on your own or with the help of others, identifying and proposing solutions to the problems you’re facing can help get the ball rolling.

Know your rights

Within the healthcare system, you have certain rights as a patient. Knowing about and understanding these rights will be essential to helping you advocate for yourself.  You have the right to fully understand your treatment options, including all risks and benefits. You have the right to a second opinion, and if you are truly questioning your healthcare provider, a second opinion may give you the confidence you are missing. You have the right to request copies of any and all of your medical documentation, test result and reports. You also have the right to refuse treatment, while perhaps a last resort, generally speaking, you have the right to decide what happens to you. At Gluckstein Lawyers, helping you learn how to advocate for yourself is part of our commitment to full-circle care.

If you would like to know more about self-advocacy in the medical system or if you think you may need a legal advocate, please contact Jan Marin at, orBrenda Agnew at



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