Medical malpractice and rhinology

Douglas E Dawson, Eric M Kraus
American Journal of Rhinology 2007, 21 (5): 584-90

BACKGROUND: Physicians facing malpractice litigation are in uncharted territory. The language, concepts, rules, and strategies of the legal system are foreign to science-based physicians. Understanding the statistics of rhinology malpractice litigation may aid the physician to cope with the assault of a claim.

METHODS: Information from the 2006 Physician Insurers Association of America (PIAA) and the 2006 PIAA Risk Management Report (RMR)-Otorhinolaryngology were searched for claims data referable to the nose, nasal chamber, and paranasal sinuses. The PIAA data sharing report (DSR) is the largest single resource of malpractice claims data containing both settlement and trial judgment information.

RESULTS: The nose, nasal cavity, and paranasal sinuses represent nearly two-thirds of the total indemnity paid for improper performance from otolaryngology head and neck surgery (Oto-HNS) medical malpractice claims between 1985 and 2005 based on claims information. Improper performance accounts for 50.3% of total monies paid ($107.6 million of $213.6 million) to resolve Oto-HNS claims in this period. Of nearly 2400 operative claims closed in the period of 1985-2005, 34.1% involved procedures on the nose and sinuses. In the past 6 years, $103.5 million indemnity has been added to the otolaryngology total.

CONCLUSION: The area of endoscopic sinus surgery has substantially contributed to Oto-HNS claims in the PIAA DSR. Despite malpractice being a cost of medical practice, every claim is perceived as an assault on the surgeon's competence. Ensuring informed consent and complete documentation may assist the provider in defending their care.

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