Surgery creates a potential risk not only for patients but for doctors as well. Surgery ranks second on the list as a common reason for medical malpractice claims in Alabama and throughout the country based on one insurer’s report. These claims could be the result of objects left in the body, surgical delays and unneeded procedures.
Report findings on claims
The insurance provider studied five years of closed malpractice claim cases from 2014 to 2018, which revealed that surgical malpractice made up 25% of them. It came in second behind diagnostic-related cases at 32%.
The report found that over 2,500 claims, or around 78%, cited performance as the reason for filing. The study also said that pre-surgery and post-surgery care may lead to a patient filing a malpractice claim.
Surgical specialties, performance and injuries involved in claims
The three surgical specialties involved in the claims include general surgery at 22%, orthopedic surgery at 17% and neurosurgery at 8%. They made up 50% of the filed claims for surgical malpractice.
The report found that 29% of surgical injuries were permanent or worse, and 9% of the injuries had been fatal. Around 39% of the cases cited poor technical skill of the surgeon as a reason for the claims. Claimants cited poor judgement and communication in 27% of the claims.
The study concluded that surgeons should adopt the “sterile cockpit” practice to reduce liability risk. This practice states that crew cannot perform non-essential tasks during high-risk jobs. Prohibiting the use of cellphones and extra traffic in the operating room during the surgery reduces distractions. Patients should be involved in decisions before surgery, and the doctor should document responses in the medical record.
Patients have the right to the best possible care under competent surgeons. If a patient feels that their health suffered as a result of medical errors, a lawyer may be able to assist them.