Patients and their families may file medical malpractice lawsuits against hospitals, medical centers, or individual medical professionals when harmed during the course of care. Malpractice, or medical negligence, occurs when a doctor or other caregiver fails to provide an adequate or acceptable level of care for a patient, resulting in harm. There are nearly endless ways that this might happen, but a new report indicates that issues related to surgical procedures are among the most common.

Report Findings on Surgery and Malpractice

The medical liability insurance company, Coverys, studied the causes of medical malpractice and recently released a report based on those findings. It included the fact that surgical malpractice accounts for the second-highest number of mistakes and incidents that harm patients.

Looking at malpractice claims for the five-year period from 2014 to 2018, the study found that 25 percent of cases were related to surgery. This was second only to diagnosis-related malpractice claims, including missed or delayed diagnoses and incorrect diagnoses. These accounted for 32 percent of all claims.

Some of the specific findings about surgical claims include:

  • Most of the claims, 78 percent, included mistakes, errors, or other issues that occurred during the actual procedure.
  • Malpractice claims also resulted from decisions made before surgeries and the care during recovery from procedures.
  • General surgery led to 22 percent of the reported claims, followed by orthopedic surgery with 17 percent and neurosurgery with eight percent of claims.
  • Nearly 30 percent of the claims were from people with permanent and significant injuries as a result of the errors.
  • Nine percent of the cases were fatal.
  • Many cases, 39 percent, involved claims that the surgeon lacked necessary skills for the procedure.
  • Other problems listed in the claims included poor judgment and communication, leaving a foreign object in the body, unnecessary surgeries, delays in surgery, and procedures performed on the wrong part of the body.

Taking Precautions Ahead of Surgery

While medical malpractice lawsuits offer harmed patients and their families a way to get justice and recover damages, the harm done to a patient cannot be reversed. Consumers of health care need to be aware of risks and can take certain steps to minimize the risks of harm and mistakes. Most important is knowing how to communicate and work with healthcare providers.

There will always be risk, but the study outlined factors that could help improve conditions and reduce harm to the patient. For instance, patients should insist on being a part of decision making. Always request information and get questions answered before going through with a surgery.

To reduce the chance of an unnecessary surgery, get a second or even third opinion. For surgeries on one particular side of the body, make sure the correct area is marked so that there is no possibility of operating on the wrong part of the body.

Avoiding lack of necessary skill in a surgeon can be minimized when patients choose specialists. Patients should never be afraid to ask a surgeon about their experiences and whether they have performed a certain procedure in the past.

Patients only have so much control over the quality of care they receive in any situation and in surgeries. However, they can take some precautions to minimize risk and have the right work with a medical malpractice lawyer and to begin a lawsuit in the event something goes wrong.