Surgical procedures can often be the most effective means of treating serious ailments, even though recovery can be painful and lengthy. However, doctors also perform an alarmingly high number of unnecessary surgeries, which serve little or no advantage to non-surgical treatment options and carry the same risks as a necessary surgery.
This has been a problem in the United States for years, leading the National Library of Medicine to write in 2017 that, “avoiding unnecessary surgery could be considered the most pragmatic approach towards reducing preventable surgical complication rates.”
Despite additional reporting on the problem dating back a decade, the high rate of unnecessary surgery in the United States continues. In fact, a recent study by the Lown Institute, a nonprofit healthcare think tank, showed that after a brief dip at the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, hospitals performed 100,000 unnecessary procedures on Medicare patients between March and December 2020.
Unnecessary surgery is medical malpractice
Performing an unnecessary surgery is a form of medical negligence—one of the categories of medical malpractice for which injured parties can seek compensation. If a doctor has performed unnecessary surgery on you or a loved one, you have the right to sue under New York law.
What makes surgery unnecessary?
In most cases, surgery is unnecessary when there’s an alternative, less invasive treatment for the same problem. For example, some obstetricians may insist on cesarean section, even without a medical reason to avoid natural childbirth.
Misdiagnosis can also lead to unnecessary surgeries. If your symptoms are similar to those of another condition, a doctor may suggest surgery without knowing the actual cause of your ailment rather than making a more careful diagnosis.
Doctors may even conspire to perform unnecessary surgeries as part of a fraud scheme. This may be to defraud Medicare, Medicaid, or private insurance. In one especially egregious instance, doctors and lawyers plotted to perform unnecessary surgeries on homeless people, and then to sue for made up slip-and-fall accidents.
Common effects of unnecessary surgery
Surgery always carries certain risks, including hemorrhaging, organ damage, infection, and anesthesia errors. Longer-term risks can include illness, loss of mobility, pain, and the inherent risks of using potentially addictive painkillers during recovery.
Doctors know the risks of surgery better than anyone. Medical professionals who elect to perform surgery to generate profits, as a quick fix, or as the result of shoddy diagnostic work knowingly put their patients at risk.
Filing a medical malpractice lawsuit
If you’ve received an unnecessary surgery, the first step in seeking compensation is to speak with a medical malpractice lawyer. An attorney who understands what constitutes unnecessary surgery and the laws governing medical negligence can help you to understand the strength of your case, what’s involved in filing a lawsuit, and what compensation you might be entitled to.
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