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Does Surgeon "Burnout" Cause Medical Malpractice Claims?

Our Michigan medical malractice lawyers frequently handle cases against surgeons and hospitals for sugrical errors.  Surgical errors comprise a significant number of medical malpractice lawsuits filed throughout the United States.  

Surgery malpractice lawsuits are filed against surgeons for a number of complications that occur during the actual surgery itself and during post-operative care.  Although, many surgical procedures have inherent risks and complications to surgical procedures, there are many unfortunate injuries and deaths that are caused due to surgical errors.  A careful analysis of the medical records is necessary to determine whether an injury or death was caused by medical malpractice or whether it was an inherent risk of the surgery.

In a recent issue of Annals of Surgery published in 2009, researchers performed an in-depth analysis to determine a source of many of the major medical errors reported by surgeons. In the article, “Burnout and Medical Errors Among American Surgeons,” the researchers performed a detailed analysis of a variety of potential factors relating to surgical errors. 

After compiling data and performing an intensive statistical analysis, the researchers determined that, “Many major medical errors reported by surgeons are strongly related to a surgeon’s degree of burnout and their mental quality of life.”  The researchers recommended that additional studies are needed to determine how to reduce the surgeon distress and what the medical profession can do to support surgeons when medical errors do, in fact, occur. 

Surgeons notoriously work significant hours every day performing difficult and intensive surgical procedures.  Their training in medical school and during their medical residency is exhaustive.  There is a significant amount of stress in their work due to the intensity of their jobs and the demands of their profession. It is not surprising that many surgeons suffer from burnout as a result of being overworked and overstressed.

However, on other occasions patients suffer significant injuries and even death due to medical errors made by surgeons.  The cause of those errors is not always known, however, this report indicates that a major cause may be the burnout of the surgeons themselves.  When this occurs, the innocent patient is the victim of this burnout.

It is clear that the medical profession needs to do a better job of reducing the stress of surgeons and providing more workable schedules.  These and other actions may reduce surgeon burnout and prevent future medical errors that jeopardize the lives and safety of surgery patients.