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Thousands of unnecessary operations lead to more surgical errors

Whenever a patient goes under the knife there is a potential for surgical errors. That is why patients rely on their physicians to explain the risks inherent in each operation and to properly inform them when a surgery is necessary. Unfortunately, this is not always the case. Maryland readers might find the following blog on the high prevalence of unnecessary surgery and the dangers posed by surgical errors interesting.

According to a review of government records and medical databases, every year tens of thousands of patients in the United States undergo unnecessary surgery. In fact, the number of unnecessary procedures may be as much as 20 percent in certain specialties. The reason such surgery occurs is complex. In some cases it is unscrupulous doctors who wish to enrich themselves by performing unneeded procedures that can subject patients to a serious injury and hazards like infections and unexpected complications.

In other cases, the surgery may not be motivated by greed but rather a lack of competence or training. In these cases, the surgeries are generally the result of medical personal who simply lake the knowledge or diagnostic experience to know when a surgical procedure is necessary or not. While certainly less egregious than the example above, it is equally dangerous for patients, and still actionable under the law. Over 1,000 doctors have settled claims regarding unnecessary procedures since 2005.

The law does provide some remedies for those injured due to unnecessary operations. If a doctor performs a surgery that fails to comport with the basic acceptable standards of the medical community, they could be subject to a medical malpractice suit. Likewise, hospitals could be liable for injuries if they did not adequately train their physicians or if the care they provide or their facilities are substandard or dangerous.

Unfortunately, because of the trust we put in our doctors it is not always apparent when a procedure is unnecessary. Sometimes it can take a tragedy, or the insight of another doctor before the truth comes to light. If a patient has undergone an unnecessary procedure, however, they may be entitled to significant compensation. Holding physicians accountable is also one way of ending such dangerous practices

Source: The Daily Journal, "Unnecessary surgery widespread in U.S.," Peter Eisler and Barbara Hansen, June 20, 2013

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