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Surgeons' bad behavior heightens risk for patient complications

Seven million surgical procedures are performed every year in Pennsylvania and the rest of the U.S. In some cases, patients may develop post-operative complications like pneumonia, infections, sepsis, cardiovascular conditions and stroke. Now, a study published in JAMA Surgery has explored the link between the risk for complications and the behavior of the surgeon.

Now, 70% to 80% of surgeons are never the subject of reports regarding unprofessional behavior. But that leaves a good number who engage in inappropriate behavior. Surgeons may communicate poorly, fail altogether to give their co-workers the proper instructions or be harsh when they offer a suggestion or correction.

Researchers found that the more reports of unprofessional behavior are attached to a surgeon, the higher the risk for a patient complication. With surgeons who haven't been reported between one and three times, patients are 18% likelier to experience a complication. With surgeon who were reported four or more times, it is 32% likelier.

Earlier research shows that the risk also goes up when reports are made not just by co-workers but also by patients and their family. Some experts are calling for the equivalent of the #MeToo movement concerning surgeons' behavior. One reason is that many co-workers, being bullied by surgeons, are hesitant to speak up when complications arise.

Poor or nonexistent communication can often result in surgical errors, which, in turn, harm patients and sometimes leave them with long-term complications. Patients might be compensated for their injuries, though, if they file a medical malpractice claim. They will need to link the error to the condition, which can be difficult in some cases. Many surgeries can, after all, lead to complications even when surgeons are not negligent. For this and other reasons, victims may want a lawyer to handle their case.

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