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Do hospitals profit from surgical errors?

As a surgical patient in New York, you should be able to trust in your surgeons to always act in your best interest. However, a study conducted at a hospital in Texas approximately five years ago may have sown some seeds of doubt in patients' minds about doctors' intent as it seemed to indicate that hospitals make more money if patients develop complications after surgery because they require more medication and other treatments, as well as longer hospital stays. The implication was that hospitals may not have been doing all they could to prevent surgical complications and errors from occurring in the interest of making a profit off of patients' suffering.

However, according to Physician's Weekly, the results of the study were misleading and not necessarily interpreted correctly by journalists covering the story. In fact, another study indicated that the theoretical elimination of a particular type of postsurgical complication, infection at the surgical site, would actually increase a hospital's profit by $650,000 per year by freeing up beds to accommodate more patients. Furthermore, those who interpreted the results of the original study to signify that hospitals profit from postoperative complications resulting from surgical errors do not seem to have taken into consideration other costs that may stem from medical malpractice, such as legal fees resulting from lawsuits or a loss of public trust.

The initial study tracked the number of patients who developed postsurgical complications in a particular institution, which amounted to about 5.3 percent of all surgical patients. Those who interpreted the results to mean that hospitals profit from surgical errors seem to have made the mistaken assumption that all postoperative complications are a result of medical mistakes. This is not the case; complications such as infections, stroke, pneumonia, septic shock or cardiac arrest can and do occur despite doctors' best efforts to care for their patients. 

Therefore, if you have had, or are planning to have, surgery, you can rest assured that your surgeon is not willfully trying to botch your procedure in order to line his or her pockets. However, doctors are human beings who do occasionally make mistakes, and if you have reason to believe you have suffered harm due to a surgical error, you have the right to pursue legal recourse.

The information in this article is not intended as legal advice but provided for educational purposes only.

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