Although it comes as no surprise that an inexperienced surgeon may be more likely to commit medical negligence in the performance of a surgical procedure, the surprising thing is that it happens at all, given the stringent training, licensing and credentialing requirements for surgeons. Nonetheless, surgical inexperience continues to be associated with poor patient outcomes.
Researchers have identified a number of factors associated with bad surgical outcomes. In addition to inexperience, they cite low hospital volume for some surgeries, excessive workload, fatigue, lack of optimal technology, poor supervision of staff and trainees, poor communication, emergency circumstances and even the time of day. Fortunately, these issues can be addressed, as they are “system” problems rather than unavoidable and inherent ones. Unfortunately, though, we have not yet found a way to require these system issues to be adequately addressed.
Just last week, a claim against a Veteran’s Hospital in Ohio was settled after a 59 year old veteran died following a simple hernia surgery. The patient’s family discovered that the surgeon had never performed this type of surgery on his own and had only been licensed a few months when the patient had his surgery. The claim was settled for $500,000.
Virginia Buchanan is a shareholder at Levin, Papantonio. She has served on the Board of Directions of the Florida Bar Foundation and has been Treasurer of ABOTA, Chairperson of the Civil Process Server Grievance Committee and has been a member of the Chief Judge’s Council on Children. She currently is a member of the Women’s Caucus of the Florida Justice Association.