The findings of a retrospective analysis of anesthesia-related medical malpractice claims that spanned the period from 2005 to 2013 and were reported to the National Practitioner Data Bank were presented during the annual meeting of the American Society of Anesthesiologists in October 2015.
The study found that of the 98,590 medical malpractice claims made against physicians in the United States that were reported to the National Practitioner Data Bank (NPDB) during the study period (2005 to 2013), 2.7% (2,697) were anesthesia-related claims.
The researchers reported that anesthesia-related medical malpractice claims for the nine-year study period decreased in frequency in both absolute numbers and relative to all other medical malpractice claims reported to the NPDB. However, the medical malpractice payouts reported to the NPDB for anesthesia-related medical malpractice claims increased when compared to other medical malpractice claims (i.e., 44.4% of all medical malpractice claims between 2010 and 2013, compared to 20.7% of all medical malpractice claims between 1995 and 1998).
Despite the growth in the medical malpractice payouts for anesthesia-related medical malpractice claims, the anesthesia medical malpractice payout amounts were comparable to the average of medical malpractice payouts for all medical specialties, but were lower than some medical specialties, such as neurosurgery, where the median medical malpractice payout was nearly twice that of anesthesia-related medical malpractice payouts.
One of the study’s authors noted that anesthesia-related medical malpractice claims that resulted in a payout were more expensive that surgical malpractice claims and were equivalent in size to diagnostic error claims. While anesthesia-related medical malpractice claims were less likely to involve severe injuries when compared to diagnostic malpractice claims, the anesthesia-related medical malpractice payouts were much more expensive in the anesthesia group.
The study also found that anesthesia medical malpractice payouts for patients who were under 20 years old were almost twice as expensive as anesthesia medical malpractice payouts for patients who were 60 and older, which was not the trend for diagnostic error medical malpractice payouts or for surgical malpractice payouts.
The most common anesthesia-related medical malpractice claim involved death (37.6%). The median medical malpractice payout for anesthesia-related medical malpractice claims involving death was $292,240, compared to $255,177 for surgical malpractice claims involving death and $248,589 for diagnostic malpractice claims involving death.
The researchers found that the payouts for anesthesia-related medical malpractice claims involving major injuries were the highest when compared to other groups (medical malpractice payouts for claims involving paralysis and brain damage were the most expensive of all of the clinical outcomes).
The study found that anesthesiologists practicing in New York had the highest probability of paying an anesthesia-related medical malpractice claim while anesthesiologists in Vermont had the lowest probability in the United States.
If you or a family member were injured (or worse) during a surgical or other procedure that involved anesthesia that may be due to an anesthesia-related issue, you should promptly find a medical malpractice lawyer in your U.S. state who may investigate your anesthesia medical malpractice claim for you and represent you in a medical malpractice claim against an anesthesiologist, if appropriate.
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