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Medical malpractice and outpatient surgery

Kentucky residents might have heard of Joan Rivers' death following a routine outpatient throat surgery. Following her death, federal officials found several safety violations at the outpatient site, including failing to weigh Rivers before administering anesthesia and performing a surgical procedure on her that she had not consented to receive.

The death of Joan Rivers points to a larger issue about the safety of outpatient surgery centers. As they become increasingly popular, more people are receiving surgery on an outpatient basis than ever before. Their popularity can be explained by the less time spent in the facility as compared to being admitted to a hospital and lower costs for insurance companies.

Compared to hospitals, outpatient surgery centers have far fewer regulations governing their safety practices. Moreover, many do not have the ability to respond quickly in the event of an emergency and instead rely on transporting patients to area hospitals if one does occur. In a 2013 study, seven risk factors were found to have led to serious complications or death within 72 hours of surgery at an outpatient clinic. These factors included patients who were overweight, had high blood pressure or had obstructive respiratory diseases.

The law allows those who suffer serious injury due to a doctor's negligence to seek recovery for their losses by filing a medical malpractice lawsuit against the errant physician and the hospital that employs them. Through such a suit, a victim could be reimbursed for any additional medical expenses he or she might need to correct the error as well as loss of income.

Source:Medpage Today, "Popularity of Outpatient Surgery Centers Leads to Questions About Safety," Sandra G. Boodman, Dec. 18, 2014

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