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Study: Outpatient surgery centers can pose risks

Increasingly, patients are undergoing relatively "minor" surgical procedures such as tonsillectomies at surgery centers rather than hospitals. These 5,600-plus surgery centers are more convenient and less expensive for patients and their families than hospitals, but they can also pose added risks. If something goes wrong, medical personnel don't have the resources that are available in a hospital to help the patient.

Probably the most high-profile case of a surgery center procedure that ended tragically involved comedienne Joan Rivers. She stopped breathing while undergoing a throat procedure in 2014 and died after being removed from life support a week later. Her daughter sued for malpractice and reached a settlement in 2016.

Now an investigation conducted by Kaiser Health News and USA Today reports that over 260 people have died following surgical procedures at these outpatient centers since 2013. Reporters also found "230 lapses in rescue equipment or training regulations" just since 2015. A reporter with Kaiser Health News said that in addition to some centers not being prepared for the type of procedure being performed, "some of the patients are not appropriate for the setting."

Interestingly, physicians have at least partial if not full ownership of about 90 percent of these surgery centers. A doctor who works for CBS News says, "I think if patients are being recommended to an outpatient surgical facility, it's a perfectly reasonable question to say, 'are you a part owner of that?'"

An affirmative response, he says, should lead a patient to ask more questions. Any patient who is referred to a surgery center should ask what kind of measures are available if something goes wrong during the procedure as well as how close the nearest hospital is.

No matter how much research they do ahead of a procedure, patients can't guarantee that nothing will go wrong. If something does, patients or surviving family members can and should determine whether those responsible for the patient's care let that patient down. Experienced Tennessee attorneys can provide important guidance regarding whether a medical malpractice suit is appropriate.

Source: CBS News, "Investigation highlights potential dangers of surgery centers in the U.S.," March 02, 2018

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