Unnecessary Surgery Compensation in South Carolina

March 15, 2024 / RP Legal

15 million Americans have surgery each year. A significant number of these surgeries are unnecessary.

Inappropriate surgical procedures can result in complications that are worse than the underlying medical condition. They cause unneeded costs, disability, and suffering.

Whether motivated by profit margins, prestige in the medical community, or the result of incompetence, unnecessary surgery is medical malpractice. Victims in South Carolina may have the right to compensation.

Can You Get Compensated for Unnecessary Surgery?

Unnecessary surgery is surgery with no or limited medical value. It is a surgery that is not beneficial or unlikely to further a patient’s treatment goals. Unnecessary surgery may be the result of a healthcare professional recommending an operation that isn’t necessary.

Alternatively, it is surgery that wouldn’t have been needed but for prior medical malpractice.

Unnecessary surgery compensation may be paid in South Carolina when a patient undergoes a surgical procedure that is not appropriate or beneficial for their medical condition. Performing unnecessary surgery may constitute medical malpractice under S.C. Code § 15-79-110(6) if a reasonably prudent healthcare professional would not have performed the surgery.

When could unnecessary surgery be considered medical malpractice?

Unnecessary surgery may constitute medical malpractice. If a doctor performs surgery that a reasonable doctor would not perform, given the circumstances, they may be liable to pay compensation to a victim.

To determine if surgery is really necessary, consider:

  • How will the surgery treat the patient? Will it improve their quality of life?
  • Are there other things that could be done? How do they compare?
  • What are the risks? What are the pros and cons?
  • Has the doctor performed the right diagnostic tests? Is the diagnosis accurate?

Surgery is not always unnecessary just because it is elective. For example, someone may undergo eye surgery, so they no longer need to wear glasses. This is an elective surgery that may be necessary. A positive medical benefit may make surgery necessary even if it is not life-sustaining.

Examples of Unneeded Surgery

Examples of unnecessary surgery include:

  • Tonsillectomy
  • Endoscopic sinus surgery
  • Back and spine surgery, spinal fusion, vertebroplasty
  • Knee replacement, hip replacement, arthroscopic knee surgery
  • Gallbladder removal
  • Hysterectomy, C-sections, cesarean section, inducing labor
  • Heart surgery, cardiac angioplasty, stent, pacemakers

Proving the surgery was unnecessary

To prove a surgery is unnecessary, the victim must rely on expert testimony. The expert should be a qualified medical professional. The expert must explain why the operation was unnecessary.

The victim may present additional evidence including their medical records and non-expert testimony. The legal standard is a preponderance of the evidence.

Unnecessary Surgery as Medical Malpractice in South Carolina

S.C. Code § 15-79-110(6) defines medical malpractice as doing what a reasonably prudent healthcare provider would not do. The standard compares how a reasonable person would act in similar circumstances.

A reasonably prudent healthcare provider wouldn’t subject their patient to surgery unless it were necessary. They would take the time to fully understand their client’s condition, the risks of surgery and available alternatives. They would recommend surgery based on an accurate diagnosis.

Compensation for Unnecessary Surgery in South Carolina

Having established that medical malpractice occurred, a victim may seek appropriate compensation. Compensation may include economic and non-economic damages that result from the malpractice, including:

  • Cost of the surgery
  • Cost of additional medical care because of complications
  • Prescription medication, and medical supplies needed for recovery
  • Lost wages, benefits and perks
  • Personal and family care expenses incurred because of a period of temporary disability
  • Pain and suffering
  • Mental and emotional anguish
  • Scarring, disfigurement and disability
  • Wrongful death

Damages are subject to limitations that may be imposed by law. They are unique to the individual losses and suffering of the victim because of the malpractice.

Attorneys for unnecessary surgery

The Rikard & Protopapas legal team represents victims of unnecessary surgeries. To talk to a lawyer about your specific situation, contact us for a case review.

Case Law Regarding Unnecessary Surgery as Medical Malpractice

Baxley v. Rosenblum, 303 S.C. 340, 400 S.E.2d 502 (1991). – A South Carolina case advancing the theory of medical malpractice based, in part, on unnecessary surgery resulting from improper medical care.

David v. McLeod Regional Medical Center, 365 S.C. 320, 617 S.E.2d 725 (S.C. 2005) – A claim for medical malpractice following removal of a portion of a lung based on an incorrect preliminary diagnosis.

Faile v. Bycura, 297 S.C. 58, 374 S.E.2d 687 (S.C. Ct. App. 1988) – An unnecessary medical procedure claim is not the same as a lack of informed consent claim. A medical procedure may be unnecessary if it can’t relieve a medical problem regardless of knowledge of the risks and potential complications. A plaintiff may assert multiple theories of liability in their claim. (See S.C. Law Review, Torts, Fall 1987).

Lipsius v. White, 91 A.D.2d 271, 458 N.Y.S.2d 928 (N.Y. App. Div. 1983) – The victim’s claim was based on a failure to perform diagnostic tests resulting in unnecessary surgery. The essential issue is whether recommending or performing the surgery departed from professional standards of care. A plaintiff must rely on expert opinion to make their case, but they don’t have to use the exact words “proximate cause.”

Prestia v. Mathur, 293 A.D.2d 729, 742 N.Y.S.2d 80 (N.Y. App. Div. 2002) – The claim was based on the defendant’s failure to perform a biopsy before surgery, resulting in misdiagnosis and unnecessary surgery. To establish a case, the victim must show a departure from accepted practice and that the departure was a proximate cause of injury or damage.

Talk to a Lawyer About Your Surgery

If you have questions about the healthcare that you or a loved one received, we invite you to contact the South Carolina medical malpractice lawyers at Rikard & Protopapas. If you have undergone an unneeded surgical procedure, you may deserve financial compensation. Our law firm represents victims of medical malpractice claims like yours.

Our lawyers understand the laws that apply to medical malpractice claims involving surgical errors. We pursue fair compensation on behalf of our clients. To see if you have a claim, and to start your case today, contact us for your case review.

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