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Increase in Malpractice Lawsuits Aimed At Laser Surgery Errors

Medical malpractice refers to all cases of professional negligence in the healthcare context. The principles that guide these suits are somewhat general, because they must be adapted to many different situations. In other words, the general negligence principle–violating the accepted standard of care–is applied in all settings, from surgical errors and radiology readings to the dispensing of medication. The specifics of what that standard is obviously changes in each setting, but the requirement to meet the standard is the same.

Understanding this is important in examining how the legal malpractice rules might apply to more unique circumstances and changes in the medical field. New treatments, products, and protocols are developed all the time, and the law must be flexible enough to adapt with it–identifying malpractice when it occurs and rejecting it when it does not.

When Surgeons Don’t Touch the Patient
For example, a recent Med Page Today story discussed how new lawsuits were being filed related to errors made during laser surgeries. In particular, new research took a look at cutaneous laser surgery injuries. Cutaneous injuries are those that affect the skin, and can arise with frequency in laser surgeries for things like hair removal or facial rejuvenation. While these procedures seem less intrusive and less risky than traditional surgical operations, many residents have learned that the injuries resulting from mistakes can still be incredibly painful and long-lasting.

New data published in the February issue of JAMA Dermatology found that there have been at least 174 malpractice lawsuits filed in the last few decades as a result of these skin injuries. The numbers are on the rise in recent years because, as you might expect, the popularity (and affordability) of these laser techniques is increasing. One can imagine that as more and more community members explore these laser options–and more clinics find them profitable–more mistakes might be made which cause harm. The researchers found that facial hair removal was the single procedure that accounted for the most lawsuits, representing 36% of the total. Skin rejuvenation was next at 25% followed by vascular treatment to fix lesions and vein problems at 8% of all suits.

The story notes that one interesting facets of legal cases stemming from these laser surgeries is that in a good number of cases the physician did not actually perform the operation or manage the equipment. However, the physician was still named as a defendant in most of these cases, because they maintain responsibility for the ultimate outcome of the matter. Each individual state has different rules about who can operate these lasers for cutaneous purposes. Obviously if the laser is being used in a more invasive, internal operation, then traditional rules apply and a licensed medical professional must be used. However, the situation is far murkier when it comes to things like hair removal and skin rejuvenation.

If you or someone you know may have been harmed in one of these operations in Chicago or throughout the state, please contact the injury attorneys to see how we can help.

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