Most negligence cases, including medical malpractice, are usually focused on what the practitioner did not do, and what the doctor could have or should have done differently to prevent injury to the patient. Nonetheless, in some situations, the issue is what the doctor should not have done.
Many doctors are being pulled into court on allegations that the doctor has performed unnecessary procedures. In medical malpractice cases, the plaintiff must prove damages. If the unnecessary procedure causes physical harm to the patient, the damages are easy to assess. If the unnecessary procedure does not cause physical harm to the patient, the damages are more difficult to assess, but they still can exist.
If an unnecessary procedure is performed, especially an invasive one like a heart procedure, the patient could experience emotional distress following the surgery. Further, the patient will be charged for an operation the patient did not need.
In some cases, doctors perform unnecessary procedures based on an honest mistake. In other cases, doctors were negligent in failing to properly research the patients’ condition and properly diagnosis a course of action.
However, doctors also knowingly routinely perform unnecessary procedures in order to avoid medical malpractice cases against them. Known as defensive medicine, ordering tests, procedures or visits that are unnecessary are usually undertaken by doctors to avoid liability in medical malpractice instead of ensuring patient’s benefit. Some argue that this behavior is unethical and may even be unlawful since the doctor’s decision-making is led by fear rather than what is in the best interest of the patient. The results of unnecessary procedures could pose dangerous consequences to patients.
According to a recent article in The New York Times, a nurse in a Florida hospital wrote a letter to the chief ethics officer expressing concern that doctors were performing unnecessary heart procedures on patients who did not need them, putting their lives at risk. The nurse said he deeply cared for his patients and could not stand to continue see this happening.
After an investigation into the claims, the nurse’s comments were substantiated. Unfortunately, little was done to remedy the high volume of unnecessary procedures, and, the nurse’s contract was not renewed. The nurse feels the hospital retaliated against him for the letter he wrote to the chief ethics officer.
If you learned that a doctor performed an unnecessary procedure on you or someone you know, contact an attorney immediately, even if there are no injuries. The unnecessary procedure may be a valid medical malpractice case against the physician.