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Surgical residents are often involved in malpractice cases

When Arizona patients enter hospitals for surgical procedures, they trust in teams of medical professionals in the operating room. If just one member of the surgical team makes an error, the results could be disastrous. A study shows that surgical residents and interns, who are still in training, are especially likely to be named in malpractice cases.

A Mayo Clinic review of malpractice cases involving surgical residents for a 10-year period identified 87 cases in which a surgical resident, intern or fellow was directly involved. Almost half of those cases were judged in favor of the plaintiffs. The payouts ranged from $1852 to $32 million.

Of the 87 cases, 67 resulted in the patient's death. Slightly more than half of the medical errors, according to the claims, were decision-making errors. Only 39 percent of alleged errors happened during surgery, with the others being preoperative or postoperative mistakes.

In 10 of the cases, surgical residents were alleged to have made decisions without evaluating the patient first. Seven of these cases resulted in payouts to the plaintiffs. Attending physicians were accused of not supervising in many cases. Insufficient supervision was considered a contributing factor in 48 cases, and failure to supervise in person was cited in 10 cases. All of the latter cases resulted in favorable judgments for the plaintiffs. The study focused on malpractice claims from Jan. 1, 2005 to Jan. 1, 2015. Seventy percent of the surgeries were elective. Informed consent errors, communications lapses and documentation errors were some of the other issues cited in the claims.

All members of medical staffs have a duty to their patients at every stage of treatment. Postoperative care often requires the skills of nurses, interns, pharmacists and others. Patients who have been harmed by surgical errors or any medical mistakes before, during or after surgery may want to meet with an attorney to discuss their alternatives.

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