Every surgery, even the most minor, has risks. We trust our doctors and medical professionals to recommend surgery only when absolutely necessary, minimizing exposure to risks like infection, blood clots, and bad reactions to anesthesia. Unfortunately, this isn’t always the case, and every year unethical doctors perform unnecessary surgeries in order to collect hefty insurance payouts.
In May, a Michigan doctor pled guilty to four counts of health care fraud after he convinced multiple patients to undergo unnecessary surgery. Dr. Sabit owned the Michigan Brain and Spine Physicians Group, and talked more than one patient into undergoing spinal fusion surgery. He billed insurance for the services and for the use of specialized equipment that he never actually used. He received over 10 million dollars in insurance proceeds for the unnecessary surgeries, and subjected his patients to pain, suffering, and incredible betrayal.
A Louisiana doctor is currently serving a prison sentence for performing dozens of unnecessary cardiac procedures. Dr. Patel, a trusted cardiologist in his community, convinced several patients to undergo unnecessary pacemaker surgery. Years after the necessary surgery, one victim had several doctors review his case, each of them agreed that he never needed a pacemaker. A Florida doctor is serving a 22-year prison term for intentionally misdiagnosing patients with skin cancer and then performing surgery on them to remove lesions he knew were not cancerous.
Unnecessary surgeries expose patients to surgical risks, pain and suffering of recovery, co pays, medical bills, time off work, and other associated costs. Millions of dollars billed in unnecessary surgeries to Medicaid, Medicare, and private insurance providers means higher premiums for everyone. Some of the most commonly performed surgeries that carry the greatest risk of being unnecessary are gallbladder removal, knee replacement, and radical prostatectomy. These surgeries are performed at very inconsistent rates throughout the country, leading researchers to conclude that physician preference for surgery is the explanation for their fluctuating rates of occurrence.
Select your doctors carefully. Do whatever research you can when visiting a new physician. Talk to friends and relatives about who they trust, and read unbiased reviews online. If your doctor recommends a surgical procedure that you have any reason to doubt, get a second opinion as soon as possible. Some people feel like they must bend to the authority of medical professionals, but your health is in your hands, and it’s important to be your own advocate. If you think you’ve been the victim of an unnecessary surgery, contact a medical malpractice lawyer to discuss your case.