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Surgical trainees responsible for medical malpractice cases

When you are admitted as a patient at a hospital, you have the right to receive competent medical care from quality physicians. In many hospitals, surgical residents, fellows and interns are involved in treating and diagnosing patients. This involvement helps them learn and become better surgeons in the future. Unfortunately, these doctors-in-training make surgical errors and are therefore responsible for many instances of medical malpractice.

A Mayo Clinic physician recently reviewed 10 years of medical malpractice cases in the U.S. and found that 87 malpractice cases involved a surgical resident, intern or fellow, with the plaintiff winning in approximately 50 percent of them. A majority of these malpractice claims, around 70 percent, involved elective surgeries and 54 percent of them occurred in general surgery.

What kinds of mistakes do these residents make? Over 50 percent of these cases involved nonoperative errors made before and after the procedure. These errors mostly involve residents making decisions, such as increasing pain medication dosage post-op, without examining the patient. Other cases relate to lack of informed consent and errors in documentation. Another common problem is that attending physicians fail to properly supervise their residents, particular those at a junior level.

It is important that surgical residents and interns in Maryland get the experience and training they need to become top-notch surgeons. However, patients should not have to suffer in the process. As hospitals continue to improve their surgical training programs, increase supervision and improve communication between residents and attendees, many patients will still suffer at the hands of an untrained resident. These patients have the right to recover damages in court by filing a medical malpractice lawsuit.

Source: Medscape, "Surgical Residents Vulnerable to Malpractice Claims," Diana Phillips, Aug. 30, 2017

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