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Does study say patients bear responsibility in surgical errors?

Many Illinois residents have undergone operations performed by orthopedists. In some cases, surgical errors occurred that caused further harm to the patients and might have required additional surgeries in order to correct the initial mistake. A new study by medical malpractice insurer The Doctors Company appears to claim that patients either are misinterpreting the results of a procedure or are somehow complicit in their injuries.

Of the 1,895 claims that were filed from 2007 through 2014, nearly 46 percent were the result of mistakes made during a surgical procedure. The study purports that only a small number of these claims were actually due to a surgical mistake. The remainder were supposedly the result of the patients' misunderstanding of what the outcome of the surgery would be.

Yet, later in the report, the data indicates that many patients were forced to undergo additional procedures to correct a problem. Some of these procedures were reportedly to make repairs to an implanted medical device. In other cases, the patient was forced to undergo an amputation.

Other issues that the study highlighted had to do with substandard postoperative care (16 percent) and diagnosis issues (13 percent). While the study indicated that approximately 35 percent of patient injuries were due to technical performance of the surgeon, another 29 percent were blamed on patient behavior. The company does stress that surgeons need to take more time to communicate with patients and their families to ensure that everyone is on the same page.

It might be true that patients do not fully understand what is going to happen during an operation, but that does not mean that any surgical errors that occur are always due to a misunderstanding by the patient. Orthopedic surgeons are human, and they do make mistakes. That is not the patient's fault, and the surgeon should take responsibility for it and not attempt to shift the blame. Illinois residents who have suffered injuries at the hands of an orthopedic surgeon retain the right to file medical malpractice claims seeking restitution for the damage caused by the error. Much needed financial restitution could help with the losses incurred by the patient and/or the family and could also help improve procedures and protocols to keep the same error from happening again.

Source:, "10 thoughts and statistics on medical malpractice claims against orthopedists", Eric Oliver |, Aug. 11, 2016

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