Unnecessary Surgery: Medical Malpractice Laws
Surgery is very lucrative for surgeons and hospitals, so it should come as no surprise that many doctors encourage surgery when there is no real reason for it.
In fact, according to an investigation by USA Today, around 10-20% of surgeries are probably unnecessary.
Because surgery carries risks, many patients are exposed to avoidable injuries. If you or a loved one has been injured, you might be able to bring a lawsuit for unnecessary surgery malpractice.
Why Unnecessary Surgeries Happen
Undergoing surgery can be grueling, even for young, healthy patients. So why would a doctor recommend surgery unless it was absolutely necessary? There are many possible reasons.
One is insurance fraud, which was touched on in the USA Today story. Some doctors bill insurance companies, including Medicare and Medicaid, for unnecessary medical procedures so that they can pocket the money. A healthy patient is less lucrative than a sick one, so some doctors will recommend unnecessary surgery simply to line their pockets.
Another reason is carelessness. A doctor might not fully understand a condition or not have ordered the necessary tests to properly diagnose what is wrong with a patient. Because of their inability to accurately diagnose a condition, they improperly order surgery.
Improper training is another cause. Doctors do not understand non-surgical options that could address a medical issue. As a result, they are too quick to order surgery, which they wrongly believe is the only treatment available.
Whatever the reasons, the number of unnecessary surgery lawsuits is high. Between 2005 and 2013, over 1,000 doctors settled claims that they had ordered unnecessary surgery.
Bringing a Lawsuit
The key to a medical malpractice lawsuit is to prove that a doctor made a medical mistake. Under the state’s malpractice statute, a patient must show that the doctor did not follow the standards of practice within the profession. In other words, what would a medical professional with the same training and experience have done under similar circumstances? If your doctor’s conduct was outside the mainstream, he or she has probably been negligent.
There are many types of errors a doctor can make, including:
- Failing to diagnose a medical condition
- Inaccurately diagnosing a condition
- Ordering the wrong treatment
- Performing surgery poorly
- Failing to inform a patient of alternatives to surgery
In each of these cases, you can sue a doctor if he or she failed to perform as another competent doctor would have.
Also, any doctor who orders unnecessary surgery out of greed has certainly violated the standard of care, to say nothing of professional ethics. That type of intentional misconduct will also support a medical malpractice lawsuit for compensation.
Jumping Through Hoops
North Carolina has adopted several “doctor friendly” laws that make it harder for medical malpractice patients to sue. To ensure you have everything in order, work closely with an experienced attorney who will guarantee you dot every I and cross every T.
For example, you must submit a sworn affidavit from an expert medical witness before you can sue. This witness will testify that he or she has reviewed your case and is prepared to testify that the doctor or other medical professional did not follow the accepted standard of practice. Finding a qualified expert witness is often beyond the abilities of most people, so hiring an attorney is essential.
Also, you must bring your malpractice case in a timely manner. North Carolina’s statute of limitations gives patients the following amount of time to sue:
- 3 years from the date of the unnecessary surgery
- 1 year after you discover the surgery was unnecessary if you could not have reasonably discovered it was unnecessary when it occurred. But you get a maximum of only 4 years from the date of surgery.
Legal Advice You Can Trust
If you suspect a doctor performed unnecessary surgery, you might be able to sue for compensation. Contact Dawson & Albritton today. We are experienced North Carolina medical malpractice attorneys who have helped countless clients. You are never just a number for us. Instead, we provide compassionate legal services to our clients in their time of need.
Call 252-752-2485 to schedule a free consultation.