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How is Medical Malpractice Determined for High-Risk Procedures?

Advancements in technology and medicine continue to create numerous societal benefits, including longer and healthier life spans, better quality of life, and more and better treatment options for disease and injury. In fact, some medical procedures that were once considered very dangerous are now considered routine.

However, while we appreciate all the advancements made in medicine, some surgeries still come with very high risk. Moreover, in addition to the risk inherent in the medical procedure, there is the added risk from the possibility of medical negligence. Even if everything else goes according to plan, great harm can result from medical malpractice. In this article, we will discuss how medical malpractice is determined for high-risk procedures.

What Constitutes a High-Risk Procedure?

Interestingly, there is no real definition for what constitutes a high-risk operation. According to a study discussed in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA), even though the term “high-risk surgery” has not previously been specifically defined, “surgeons know it when they see it.”

Choosing an exact definition can prove tricky because it is determined, in part, by the focus of the person writing the definition. For example, one could focus on the condition of the patient. Certainly, a patient in poor condition presents an added level of risk as compared to a patient in good condition. Alternatively, one could consider the particular body part involved. There is no doubt but that a patient having heart surgery or brain surgery generally faces more risk than someone having foot surgery. You might also consider the level of expertise held by the hospital or the doctor for the particular procedure being undertaken. Of course, the procedure’s level of difficulty must also be considered. Regardless of the precise definition, below are listed only a few examples of the surgeries that almost any medical professional would consider high-risk:

  • Craniectomy – this is the removal of a portion of the skull to reduce pressure on the brain.
  • Bladder cystectomy – in this surgery, all or a part of the bladder is removed.
  • Gastric bypass – this surgery, which affects the stomach and small intestine, is designed to help patients lose weight.
  • Thoracic aortic dissection repair – this is a form of open-heart surgery.
  • Spinal Osteomyelitis surgery – this surgery treats patients with spinal infections.

How is Medical Malpractice Determined for a High-Risk Procedure?

A plaintiff proves that a doctor or surgeon committed medical malpractice by demonstrating that the doctor breached the applicable standard of care, which resulted in injury to the plaintiff. The key here is the standard of care, which is established by expert testimony describing what a reasonable doctor in the same community would have done under the same or similar circumstances. Through this standard of care, the law implicitly takes into account the nature of the high-risk procedure.

Call Us with Your Questions

At Nelson MacNeil Rayfield, we appreciate the importance of the medical profession as much as anyone. Most doctors, surgeons, and other medical caregivers provide an excellent level of service to their patients. But when medical care providers fail to meet the standard of care demanded by the law, we believe that they must be held accountable so that all of society can be property protected. If you have questions regarding consequences arising from a surgery or other medical procedure, one of our experienced medical malpractice lawyers will be happy to answer them. We’re also here if you need help investigating and pursuing your rights. Contact us for more information.