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Doctors Harm Patients with Useless Surgery

Hot on the heels of the Johns Hopkins study concluding that medical errors are the third leading cause of death in the United States (see our earlier post here), the New York Times is reporting that doctors continue to perform surgeries that have been shown to be “useless.” Why Useless Surgery Is Still Popular (subscription may be required). The authors of the latest study, published in the BMJ this past July, editorialized that arthroscopic surgery for knee pain is: “A highly questionable practice without supporting evidence of even moderate quality.” Similar studies exist for spinal fusion, vertebroplasty and kyphoplasty.

A study by the USA Today found that tens of thousands of times each year, patients undergo surgeries that they do not need. One case highlighted by the USA Today involved Jonathan Stelly, a 22 year-old semi-pro baseball player, who was told by a doctor that he needed a pacemaker in order to survive to age 30. Mr. Stelly went forward with the surgery. Months later Mr. Stelly learned that the doctor who performed the surgery was under investigation for performing unnecessary surgeries. This prompted Mr. Stelly to seek out other doctors to review his case. All of these doctors agreed that Mr. Stelly only needed blood pressure medication, not a pacemaker, to properly address his medical issue. Mr. Stelly still has the pacemaker, but it has been turned off because it is not needed. Read more here: http://www.usatoday.com/story/news/nation/2013/06/18/unnecessary-surgery-usa-today-investigation/2435009/

The medical community needs to heed this evidence and stop performing “useless” operations on patients. Negligent medical professionals need to be held accountable for such actions. If you or someone you know has had complications from “useless” surgery, please contact the seasoned medical malpractice advocates at Rourke & Blumenthal for a free consultation.