Thousands of Americans are going under the knife every year for surgery that isn’t necessary, according to a USA Today investigation. After reviewing information from government records and medical databases, USA Today concluded that unnecessary surgeries may account for 10 to 20 percent of all operations in some specialties. Unfortunately, although the scope of the problem is huge, it remains largely hidden. Public attention has been limited to few cases, typically involving doctors who put cardiac stents in patients who didn’t need them.
Two lawsuits have been filed against King’s Daughter’s Medical Center in Ashland, KY. The suits allege that doctors performed medically unnecessary cardiac procedures, including coronary angioplasty, stenting and coronary artery bypass grafts and pacemaker and defibrillator implantation. These surgeries left many in physical and emotional pain; some patients died. The hospital and the other defendants have denied wrongdoing. Kristie Whitlatch, King’s Daughters president and chief executive officer, said the hospital will defend these claims and the reason for such a large number of plaintiffs is for a “shock factor” to get attention.
How’s this for “shock factor” (and not the kind Ms. Whitlatch is referring to)? According to a Bloomberg report, federal investigators have been probing King’s DaughtersMedicalCenter since 2011 looking into whether some doctors at the hospital were implanting stents in some patients who may not have needed them. The probe is part of a bigger U.S. Department of Justice investigation that started in 2006 focusing on allegations that hospitals across the country billed public health programs for unnecessary stents to make extra cash.
It is difficult to really know the full scope of the issue because many cases go unreported. The federal government doesn’t currently require hospitals to track data on these types of errors, and not every patient who undergoes unnecessary surgery will file a lawsuit. Although this is a serious public safety concern that must be addresses, patients should take step to protect themselves by researching the procedure (there is an abundance of information ion the internet), asking questions, including what will happen if I don’t have the procedure, and seeking a second opinion. Studies have shown that requiring a mandatory second opinion leads to a 20 percent drop in some surgeries that tend to have a higher rate of unnecessary procedures. Click here for a list of the 90 most common unnecessary tests and procedures.
Attorney, certified civil mediator, and award-winning author of the Zachary Blake Betrayal Series—Mark Bello is also the CEO of Lawsuit Financial and the country’s leading expert in providing non-recourse lawsuit funding to plaintiffs involved in pending litigation. He is also a member of the State Bar of Michigan, a sustaining member of the Michigan Association for Justice, and a member of the American Association for Justice.