Why Are Doctors Performing Unnecessary Surgeries on Patients?

If you’ve ever been to a hospital for, chances are your doctor told you that it was necessary; it would be in your best interest.

But according to a recent study, there’s a chance your doctor may have subjected you to an unnecessary surgery simply because, well, it’s much more profitable to do so.

In a study reported by USA Today, statistical data regarding surgical procedures in the U.S. has revealed that tens of thousands of patients each year are admitted to hospital operation rooms to undergo intensive surgical procedures that are completely unnecessary.

Many doctors ask for additional surgeries for all too common a motive: profit.

Although some of the cases uncovered in the study may be the result of a physician who is unaware that there are alternative options for the patient besides surgery, the general consensus among experts is that the potential profit that comes from increasing the number of surgical procedures is enticing enough for doctors to commit fraud.

Public attention and media coverage of this issue has been relatively small compared to the overall scope and negative impact that these practices have on the country as a whole. A few of such cases have been sensationalized in the U.S. media, but overall the problem is underreported and many patients end up falling victim to the doctors they trust.

Unnecessary Surgery Ends Man’s Baseball Career

Take the case of Jonathan Stelly, whose medical negligence case was featured in the USA Today article that revealed the results of the study. Stelly was 22 and pursuing a professional baseball career when one day he fell ill. Upon reviewing his situation with doctors, Stelly was told that he needed a pacemaker if he wanted to live past the age of 30.

Trusting the word of his doctor, Stelly agreed to the procedure and had the pacemaker put into his chest, effectively putting an end to any shot he had at pursuing a professional baseball career. But just a few months after the surgery, news reports about Stelly’s doctor and his questionable practices began to emerge.

As it turns out, Mehmood Patel – the doctor who had diagnosed Stelly – was being investigated for rampantly subjecting patients to unnecessary surgeries in order to increase revenue and collect large amounts of money from patients’ insurance policies. Patel was eventually sent to prison after being convicted of billing Medicare for dozens of unnecessary heart procedures, and Stelly found out that he was one of several patients who underwent an unnecessary operation.

According to USA Today, unnecessary surgeries can potentially account for 10 to 20 percent of all operations in some specialty medical practices, including cardiac-related procedures. Knee replacements, hysterectomies and cesarean sections are also cited as procedures that are commonly performed when they are not necessary.

What’s more, the researchers revealed that more than 1,000 doctors in the U.S. have made payments to settle or close malpractice claims related to surgeries that later resulted in allegations of unnecessary treatment. Approximately 50 percent of doctors’ payments in these cases had at some point involved allegations of serious permanent injury or death, and a significant percentage of the doctors faced claims from multiple patients.

How to Avoid Being Victimized by Medical Malpractice

Doctors are in a position of power when it comes to their patients because they are expected to serve as medical experts who want the best for their patients. It is this imbalance in power and expertise that influences a person like Jonathan Stelly to agree to a surgical procedure without even thinking to question his doctor’s advice.

But in the world we live in today, it can be extremely difficult to determine if a doctor is a good egg or a bad egg. And as scary as that may be, the responsibility lies in the hands of the patients to be their own best advocates and ensure that anyone involved in health-related decisions has their best interests in mind.

If a person ever visits a physician and is advised to undergo a surgical procedure – especially if it is a serious form of surgery with significant risks – it is always a good idea to consult another doctor for a second opinion. After he became aware of his doctor’s crimes, Stelly consulted with several other doctors – all of whom told him that he only required some standard heart medication and that his procedure was completely unnecessary.

Do a Google search of your doctor’s name and see what comes up, you may be surprised what you find and it could save you a great deal of headache in the future. There is no such thing as being too diligent, and many times there is plenty of useful information – from review sites, blogs and forms of social media – about doctors on the internet. 

1 Comments
I became eligible for Medicare last year and already I'm having doctors try to scam me, including one that I've known for years. The greed and lack of morality came as a surprise to me, but now that I see how the game is played, I am asking doctors to give me a detailed statement of the services they perform and informing my insurance company of things that are charged but not done. Actually, I think the whole medical community is guilty of overbilling and I think it's intentional. Years ago, for example, when I was in my thirties, I was scheduled for an out-patient surgery to lance an abscessed bartholine gland. Between the time the surgery was scheduled and was to be performed, the abscess burst on its own and there was no need for the surgery. When the insurance statement came though, however, it said I had had the surgery. My company was paying for my insurance, so I took the statement to the office manager and told her that the billing was incorrect. After investigating it, the insurance learned that indeed, the surgery had not been done. My company started a policy offering everyone 10 percent of whatever was recovered through false billing if they reported it. It was amazing how much they recovered. Also, my husband was ill for most of his later life and I always went through the bills with a fine-tooth comb. Errors were common and things were always overbilled -- never underbilled. I think they do this on purpose.
by Janet August 4, 2014 at 01:50 AM
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