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Malpractice laws and surgical complications

Doctors are often sued for malpractice if they commit surgical errors. However, Oklahoma residents who have to undergo a surgical procedure should be aware that according to a study, a climate in which malpractice suits are aggressively pursued does not actually protect patients from surgical complications.

Proponents of the medical malpractice laws that provide fewer barriers for patients to sue their physicians assert that the legislation is needed to improve healthcare. According to the study leader, however, the findings indicate that the risk of litigation did not result in better outcomes. In fact, working in an environment in which they know that a mistake may result in litigation may encourage doctors to practice defensive medicine, which entails unnecessarily ordering additional treatments and tests in order to reduce the chances that they will be sued.

The researchers arrived to this conclusion and others by evaluating state-specific data regarding the average litigation award size, medical malpractice insurance premiums and the number of filed claims for every 100 doctors in every state for 2010. They also assessed the chances of complications, death or repeat procedures occurring within 30 days of surgery for patients who had fee-for-service Medicare in that year. Additionally, there was information on 890,000 Medicare members who had been patients at nearly 3,200 hospitals countrywide.

Some surgical errors, like operating on the wrong body part or the wrong patient, are obvious instances of negligence. However, not all mistakes rise to that level from a legal standpoint. An attorney representing a patient who has been harmed by an error during or after a procedure will need to demonstrate that the health care practitioner or facility failed to exercise the requisite standard of care.