According to a USA TODAY investigation, tens of thousands of patients undergo unnecessary surgeries each year. This is an incredible number that gets very little attention, save for some very high-profile cases. The article states that unnecessary surgeries could account for 10 to 20 percent of all operations in some specialities of medicine, including cardiac and spinal procedures. Other surgeries they found are often performed more often than necessary were knee replacements, caesarean sections, and hysterectomies.
For example, USA TODAY’s report found that, in 2011, about 10% of all spinal fusions paid for by Medicare were not needed by the patient. The reasons the procedures were unnecessary were because either there were no medical basis for them, or because doctors didn’t follow the standard of care of exploring non-surgical treatments.
If you find your surgery was unnecessary, does that make it medical malpractice? The answer isn’t that clear-cut, but we’ll try to make some sense of it here in this week’s blog.
It is medical negligence?
First, remember that “unnecessary” isn’t the same as “negligent.” Malpractice means the surgeon must have been negligent in some way, and that negligence caused long-term harm. However, if a surgeon performed a procedure due to a reasonable medical concern, but that surgery turned out to be unnecessary, that might not constitute malpractice.
There should be a legitimate medical need for your surgery, meaning that all non-surgical options have been exhausted. A doctor who recommends surgery without other options first could be considered negligent. So could a doctor who misdiagnoses you and performs surgery when another competent doctor would have made a correct, non-surgical diagnosis.
Remember, before consenting to surgery, you should always get a second or third opinion.
Why would a doctor perform unnecessary surgery?
Doctors perform tens of millions of surgeries each year, most of which save and improve people’s lives. However, many of those surgeries are simply useless. Moreover, surgeries come with risks and complications—anesthesia errors, hemorrhage, organ damage, or infection. And after the surgery, patients have to spend painful time in recovery, even if everything goes 100% well.
Doctors tend to perform unnecessary surgeries for two reasons:
- Because that’s what they’ve been trained to do and it’s the way they’ve always done it.
- They have incentive to do the surgery, either financial or for professional fame.
For the record, both of these reasons could be considered acts of malpractice, and the second may even be criminal. Speak with a lawyer if you’re unsure about what your rights are.
Medical malpractice cases typically have statutes of limitations, so it’s important to act now. Our Chicago medical malpractice attorneys at Gainsberg Law will carefully investigate what happened and why regarding your surgery, from your initial doctor visit all the way through to today. We are ready to help you obtain justice and secure the compensation to which you are entitled for your losses. We invite you to schedule a meeting with our legal team through our contact form, or by calling 312.548.9019.