KCA analysis faults doctors for 70% of disputes

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KCA analysis faults doctors for 70% of disputes

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Seven of 10 surgery-related medical disputes are caused by doctors’ mistakes, according to the Korea Consumer Agency (KCA) yesterday.

The Consumer Dispute Resolution Committee of the KCA analyzed 328 surgical and related medical disputes it had resolved from 2011 through August in which patients either extended their hospital stays, required re-admission or developed disabilities.

According to the analysis, disputes appeared most often in cosmetic surgery with 71 cases, or 21.6 percent.

Next were tumor surgery (56 cases), fracture surgery (40), spinal surgery (38) and intestinal surgery (22).

Physician error accounted for 127 cases, or 38.7 percent, followed by a lack of explanation (41 cases) and post-surgical mismanagement (38 cases) by the medical staff.

When looking at the types of consumer damages caused by surgical mistakes, the most common was additional surgery (113 cases), aggravated symptoms (72), disabilities (60) and death (41).

In 222 of the total cases, doctors paid compensation to patients who the Consumer Dispute Resolution Committee decided suffered because of physician error.

Out of those 222 cases, 156, or 70.3 percent, increased the financial burden for patients who had to stay longer in the hospital or be re-admitted because of errors made by the medical staff.

According to the KCA, a 39-year-old patient surnamed Koh suffered a paralyzed ankle when his nerve was damaged during surgery that required him to receive an artificial joint.

Koh was paid 40 million won ($38,084) by the hospital.

A 17-year-old surnamed Kang was transported to a hospital after a car accident caused a 10-centimeter (4-inch) gash in his left thigh, yet the surgery was delayed and the medical staff did not quickly respond to the massive bleeding and his falling blood pressure, causing doctors to amputate his leg below the knee. The patient was awarded 240 million won.

By age group, those in their 50s accounted for most of the surgical errors with 70 cases, followed by those in their 60s with 66 cases, 40s with 64 cases and 70s with 37 cases.

Those in their 20s and 30s sustained the most damage from cosmetic surgery, while those in their 40s had tumor-related accidents, and in the 50s fracture and tumor surgery damage.

More than half of the 71 damage cases by consumers in their 20s and 30s were from cosmetic surgery. The reason for these cases was because the result of the surgeries did not meet expectations, which the KCA blamed on inadequate pre-surgery explanations by doctors and other medical staff members.

“In order to prevent such surgical accidents, specific guidelines for each surgery are required to ensure doctors’ accurate diagnosis and surgery, as well as precise treatment before and after surgeries,” said a spokesman for the KCA committee.

“Also, medical consumers should use caution when deciding to go through a surgery, unless it is an emergency, and must hear a full explanation from doctors. If patients are suspicious of possible surgery accidents, they should call professional organizations such as the KCA after obtaining evidence like medical registers, X-ray film and doctors’ notes.”

BY KIM JUNG-YOON [kjy@joongang.co.kr]

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