CHICAGO (November 14, 2011) According to the results of a new study published in the November 2011 Journal of the American College of Surgeons, malpractice lawsuits against U.S. surgeons occur often and can take a profound personal toll on the surgeon, resulting in emotional exhaustion, stress, and professional dissatisfaction.
The researchers examined personal and professional characteristics and found malpractice lawsuits were strongly and independently linked to surgeon depression and career burnout. The stress caused by malpractice litigation was rated as equivalent to that of financial worries, pressure to succeed in research, work/home conflicts, and coping with patients' suffering and death. Finally, surgeons who experienced a recent malpractice lawsuit reported less career satisfaction and were less likely to recommend a surgical or medical career to their children or others.
The surgical specialties reporting the highest rates of malpractice lawsuits in the last 24 months were neurosurgery (31 percent), cardiothoracic surgery (29 percent), general surgery (28 percent), colorectal surgery (28 percent), and obstetric and gynecologic surgery (28 percent). The lowest rate specialties reporting malpractice lawsuits were otolaryngology (12 percent), ophthalmology (12 percent) and breast surgery (14 percent).
"The frequency of malpractice lawsuits and the adverse associations they have significantly impact surgeons' personal health, yet these consequences are often poorly understood," said Charles M. Balch, MD, PhD, FACS, lead author of the study and professor of surgery, University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center in Dallas. "The purpose of this study was to examine these repercussions more closely and pave the way for additional research to identify individual, organizational and societal interventions to support surgeons who experience malpractice litigation."
Of the 25,073 surgeons sampled in the study 7,164 part
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