Surgical errors are a frequent source of medical malpractice claims in Ohio. Urologic Care reports this month that the incidence of wrongful death associated with common urologic procedures increased significantly over a 12-year study period. The increase in preventable deaths coincided with a shift of more procedures to outpatient surgery centers. It appears that, once again, profits are getting in the way of safe medical care
Investigators found that deaths increased by 18% during the study period. These results buck a general trend of improving surgical outcomes in other surgical specialties. Sadly, the death rates were highest among the poor and elderly. Older patients, minorities, publicly insured patients, and patients who received care at urban hospitals had the highest mortality rates. Investigators also found that the mortality rate after a complication increased by 1.5% per year over the study period.
The study period was from 1998 to 2010. Procedures studied included TURP, ureteric stenting, nephrectomy, TURBT, PCN placement, bladder biopsy, and cystectomy — all standard urologic surgeries. As a lawyer handling medical negligence cases throughout Ohio, I am not surprised by these findings. In the quest for profits, healthcare providers and health insurers have conspired to reduce the time of surgical admissions, often sending groggy patients home to be cared for in unmonitored settings.
It used to be that recovery occurred in a setting where a professional registered nurse would monitor the patient’s recovery over the course of a few days after such procedures. Many poorer, weaker patients lack the voice or finances to bring concerns to caregivers’ attention once they have left the hospital. While surgeons are reducing intraoperative surgical errors with improved surgical techniques, substandard postop care can nonetheless result in a bad outcome.