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A surgeon's error, but a patient's medical bill

Doctors are professionals people can trust -- or, that is ideally the case. Nevertheless, countless patients in Maryland are devastated to find that a surgeon made an error during a procedure. Many would like to think these incidents only occur in bizarre situations, but the reality is that they can happen anywhere. What options do patients have in these situations, and how can they go about mending the mental, physical and financial damage done?

CBS News focused on this unsettling topic last year, noting a survey that showed the number of surgeons who followed strict hospital guidelines, as well as ones who cut corners. According to the survey published in JAMA Surgery, most of the surgeons admitted to following five out of eight hospital disclosure practices when it came to admitting fault. The surgeons claimed they carried out practices of explaining why an error occurred, disclosing the issue in a timely manner and taking steps to prevent further complications. Yet despite these positive habits, 45 percent of the surgeons surveyed admitted that they did not typically apologize for errors, and did not bring to the patient's attention that the error made was preventable.

These numbers can certainly be disconcerting, but the Washington Post raises another issue that stems from doctor mistakes: who is left to pay the bill? The Post states that, even with the 2010 law modifications that tightened the grip on quality care, a large number of patients still suffer from medical malpractice. Even more shocking is the Journal of Patient Safety's 2013 statistic that the number of Americans who die every year because of medical errors is over 400,000. The problem many patients struggle with is the fact that so many hospitals refuse to admit fault; these patients can then face a new world of issues when sorting out aspects of the process that ensues. Mistakes happen, but most would argue that it is a surgeon's duty -- even when that work goes awry -- to protect a patient in all ways possible.   

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