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Second most common cause of malpractice claims is surgery

Surgery is the second most common reason for malpractice claims according to a report from the medical liability insurer Coverys. It analyzed five years' worth of malpractice claims closed between 2014 and 2018 and found that 25% of claims were surgery-related. This, Pennsylvania residents should know, came to a total of 2,579 claims over the time period studied.

Of these, 78% concerned practitioner performance during the surgery. In 7% of cases, patients had a foreign object left inside their body. Other claims involved an unnecessary surgery in 4%, a harmful delay in surgery in 3% and surgeries on the wrong side, site or patient in 3% of cases. It's clear, then, that errors can occur at any stage of a surgery.

The allegations mostly centered on a lack of technical skill on the part of the surgeon, 39%, or a failure in clinical judgment or communication, 27%. The fields that saw the majority of errors were general surgery with 22%, orthopedic surgery with 17% and neurosurgery with 8%.

Experts say that one way to reduce the number of surgical errors is to maintain a distraction-free operating room. This means no visitors, no phones, no music and no performing of non-essential duties. Before surgery, patients should be heavily involved in the decision-making process, and all informed consent discussions should be carefully recorded.

Those who are injured by a surgical error may pursue a medical malpractice case and seek compensation for past and future medical expenses, past and future lost income and whatever else is applicable. The statute of limitations in this state is two years from the time when the injury was discovered or should have reasonably been discovered. Victims may want to start by having a lawyer evaluate the case. If hired, the lawyer may assist with gathering evidence and negotiating a settlement.

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