New research has confirmed, yet again, that many physicians in high-stress professions – such as surgeons – suffer from alcoholism at alarming rates. Now, a new study has also shown what experienced medical malpractice attorneys such as those at Passen & Powell have long known: that this alcoholism leads to increased rates of medical error.
This new study focused on surgery, one of the most high-stress medical specialties. Surgeons have one of the highest percentages of emergency calls, the highest percentages of after-hours work. Surgical work itself is also considered one of the most demanding medical jobs during work hours. Surgery is thus a specialty with one of the highest rates of alcoholism. In the past, although the link between alcoholism and surgery has been studied and acknowledged, experts adopted a “who knows?” attitude as to whether there was a connection between alcoholism and surgeons’ job performance.
Thanks to this latest study, however, we now know what our Chicago medical malpractice lawyers have long considered obvious. Surgeons who exhibited signs of alcoholism were a whopping 45 percent more likely to have committed a major medical error within the three months preceding the study.
The study was based on a sample of about 7,200 surgeons. Fifteen percent of those surgeons exhibited signs of alcohol abuse or dependency. Interestingly, the rate was around 14 percent in male surgeons and 25 percent in female surgeons, although the study revealed no explanation for this disparity. Prior studies have shown that about 9 percent of the general population has these problems. Surgeons with signs of alcohol addiction also showed signs of depression and burnout.
Perhaps even more significantly, 77 percent of those surgeons who had made a major medical error in the past three months were among the surgeons who showed signs of alcoholism. Whatever those in the medical profession may wish to believe, this reveals an enormous problem which the profession must confront, for the safety of patients and the public.
Because the 7,200 surgeons studied were those who chose to respond to the study, the researchers believe that their results may actually have underestimated the rate of alcoholism, and connected medical malpractice. This is because many of those who engage in alcohol abuse may have chosen not to respond due to shame or guilt.
If you or a loved one have been a victim of a major medical error, particularly in connection with a surgery, it is entirely possible that your surgeon’s alcoholism or alcohol abuse may have been a cause of your injuries. That is why it is crucial that you speak to an experienced medical malpractice attorney as soon as possible. Your attorney will help you to fully investigate how your medical error occurred, and determine whether a factor such as alcohol abuse may be responsible for what appears to be an unavoidable complication. Your attorney can then help you decide whether to bring a legal claim to recover for your injuries.
For a free consultation with an experienced Chicago medical malpractice lawyer at Passen & Powell, call us at (312) 527-4500.