Urological medical malpractice

S E Kahan, H B Goldman, S Marengo, M I Resnick
Journal of Urology 2001, 165 (5): 1638-42

PURPOSE: Like all other medical and surgical practitioners, urologists are occasionally confronted with the unpleasant realization that they are being sued for medical malpractice. These suits are generated through any number of acts or failures to act during innumerable circumstances. We reviewed all urological claims presented to 1 representative insurance company and delineated the types of acts, settings, expenses and disposition of these claims. This review was performed to understand better the claims confronting urologists and provide future guidance to urologists in the medical malpractice setting.

METHODS AND MATERIALS: Working with The St. Paul Companies 259 medical malpractice claims against urologists consecutively closed from 1995 to 1999 were reviewed. Claims were defined as urological malpractice when the insured-defendant in a malpractice claim was a urologist. Each claim was reviewed in terms of disposition, patient age, geographic location, office-hospital setting, purported negligent act, procedure if applicable, litigation status and expenses incurred. Data ascertained were then compared to national practice statistics provided by the American Urological Association (AUA) and American Medical Association. In addition, a literature search with the key words urology and malpractice was performed. Related pertinent documents were reviewed and incorporated into this analysis.

RESULTS: We reviewed 259 urological medical malpractice claims closed between 1995 and 1999. During this period The St. Paul Companies insured various numbers of private practice urologists. In the years ending 1995 to 1999, 489, 492, 438, 377 and 426 individual urologists, respectively, were insured with respective premiums paid in the amounts of $6.27, $6.23, $5.80, $5.15 and $3.87 million. Claims were analyzed by AUA section. The greatest incidence of claims occurred in the Southeastern section, followed by the North Central, South Central, Mid-Atlantic, New England, Western and New York sections. According to AUA statistics the greatest number of practicing urologists are in the Southeastern section, followed by the Western, North Central, South Central, Mid-Atlantic, New York, New England and Northeastern sections. When analyzing average expenses, the New England section had the most costly claims, followed by the Mid-Atlantic, North Central, Southeastern, South Central, Western and New York sections with respective mean expenses of $266,887, $145,031, $47,667, $41,843, $38,365, $30,037 and $1,065 per claim, respectively. The greatest percent of claims arose from the categories of inpatient, adult and surgical procedures. Endourological procedures resulted in the greatest incidence of surgical claims. However, claims related to prostatectomy involved the most expensive claims with a mean cost of $185,345. Of the surgical procedures incidents defined as postoperative complications were the most common acts of negligence generating a malpractice claim. The majority of malpractice claims were filed in court but subsequently voluntarily dismissed by the plaintiff.

CONCLUSIONS: Medical malpractice persists as an issue confronting urologists. Urologists must strive to maintain open, honest, in-depth communications with their patients when occurrences with potential malpractice overtones arise.

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