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Doctors commit medical negligence by unnecessary surgeries

A shocking expose' in USA Today recently documented that tens of thousands of surgeries are performed unnecessarily each year. These occur in Michigan and throughout the country. In some cases, the procedure results in permanent harm and may be remedied by a claim for medical negligence against the doctor. In other cases, the medical malpractice rules are too rigorous to support a claim. But by far the biggest category of improper surgeries are unknown to the patient, and escape any challenge whatsoever.

The USA study is too extensive for full treatment here, and is only summarily treated. One area is cardiology, where government records and medical databases reveal a wide range of cardiac procedures, including stents, angioplasty and pacemaker implants that are unnecessary. Knee replacements, hysterectomies, and cesarean sections are among other surgical procedures often not needed. Other popular areas not needed are spinal surgeries and knee replacements. 

Some egregious examples make the headlines. For example, a cardiologist was sentenced in 2011 for putting cardiac stents in more than 100 patients unnecessarily. This year nearly 100 patients sued a surgeon who allegedly did needless spinal surgeries to implant bone-grafting devices. One man was victimized by a doctor insisting he needed a pacemaker to live. Months later, the doctor was arrested for unneeded surgeries, and the man learned that he only had needed blood pressure medicine.

Also, since 2005 more than 1,000 doctors made payments or settled malpractice claims involving unnecessary or inappropriate surgical procedures or surgical mistake. The suits can be tracked in the U.S. government's National Practitioner Data Bank public use file. About half of the cases involve serious permanent injury or death from surgical errors.

But these are only a small fraction of cases. A professor at the Harvard School of Public Health calls it 'a very serious issue'. There are likely billions spent by Medicaid and Medicare unnecessarily. For example, about 10 percent of spinal fusions paid by Medicare in 2011 weren't necessary. That is $157 million in improper payments just for spinal surgeries annually.

If you're a Michigan resident who suffering serious injury from medical negligence, you can consult with experienced medical malpractice counsel. In this way, you can get an accurate account of the legal issues. You can also learn your options and remedies for going forward.

Source: USA Today, "Doctors perform thousands of unnecessary surgeries," Peter Eisler and Barbara Hansen, June 20, 2013

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