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Study: patient complications arise from surgeons’ bad behavior

JAMA Surgery has published a study linking reports of unprofessional behavior on the part of surgeons with a higher risk for patient complications. Georgia residents should know that between 70% and 80% of surgeons in the U.S. never receive a complaint about their behavior. Still, that leaves a sizeable group of surgeons who do.

The study involved reports of unprofessional behavior from the co-workers of 202 surgeons. Researchers also looked at 13,653 patients for signs of complications within 30 days after surgery. It turns out that 1,583 patients did experience complications and that they were more likely to experience them with surgeons who had more reports filed against them.

The risk of complications goes up an estimated 18% with surgeons who have been reported one to three times. It increases 32% with four or more reports. Male surgeons were more likely to exhibit unprofessional behavior than female. Examples of such behavior include unsafe care, lack of communication and shouting at co-workers who make mistakes.

Patient complications can range from pneumonia and infections, such as urinary tract infections, to stroke and cardiovascular conditions. With infection also comes the danger of sepsis. Some doctors are calling for the equivalent of a #MeToo movement within the surgical community because harassment in the workplace makes many co-workers afraid to speak up.

Unprofessional behavior can also be called malpractice, so those who develop a worsened condition after surgery and who believe that this was to blame may be able to prepare a case under medical malpractice law. Linking malpractice with the injuries can be difficult since most surgical procedures naturally come with side effects. With a lawyer, victims may have access to a network of third parties like investigators and medical experts. Victims may then leave negotiations to their lawyer.