A recent study released by the Journal of American Medicine, Relationship Between Occurrence of Surgical Complications and Hospital Finances,concludes that hospitals actually profit when surgical errors are made.  Why?  Those unfortunate patients who experienced surgical errors/medical malpractice many times required prolonged hospital admissions and additional corrective surgical procedures.  Simply put, the more medical care and treatment you receive, the more it costs.

The researchers who performed the study, in conjunction with Harvard’s schools of medicine, the Boston Consulting Group, and Texas Health Resources, estimated that when surgical errors were made, the hospital received an increase of approximately $40,000 per patient with private insurance and $2,000 per patient with Medicare.  Compounded over a large quantity of patients, we are talking a lot of money.

While we can all assume that no hospital would ever intentionally promote the commission of surgical errors in the name of profits, there certainly would appear to be a complete lack of incentive to implement additional policies and procedures aimed at decreasing the likelihood of similar subsequent surgical errors.  This resulting practical reality of surgical errors equating to increased profits clearly demonstrates a tremendously flawed healthcare system.  Thankfully, in realizing this very unfortunate scenario, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) have begun refusing to pay for subsequent surgical procedures linked to original and preventable surgical errors.

CMS action or not, one would certainly think and hope that hospitals would recognize their moral obligation to implement these additional policies and procedures despite the increased costs associated therewith.

Cameron Stephenson is a lawyer with the Levin, Papantonio law firm in Pensacola, Florida, and handles medical malpractice and other wrongful death cases.  He has devoted his legal practice to fighting for the rights of Florida’s injured patients.