One area of medicine that does not immediately come to mind when thinking about medical malpractice is urology. A physician who specializes in urology typically works with patients to prevent illnesses, as well as treat and diagnose illnesses. The majority of practicing urologists also sub-specialize in: neurology, renal transplantation, urologic oncology, pediatric urology, male infertility and erectile dysfunction. Once an urologist completes medical school they must complete one year of residency in general surgery. Urologists must then complete 4 years in either a residency program or a fellowship in clinical urology. Patients may look to an urologist for treatment or diagnosis for any of the following conditions: proteinurea, prostate enlargement, erectile dysfunction, incontinence, urinary tract infections, bladder cancer, hematuria, glomerular disease, and benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH).
On a list of 28 specialties, urology is ranked 12th as the specialty subject to malpractice and monetary remedies. It has been estimated that a physician who specializes in urology will be sued at least twice during their career. While they may not be sued as many as other physicians, urologists do have to think about the cost of malpractice insurance and keep in mind that the cost of remedies for plaintiffs is on the rise. In a 2003 study done by the American Urological Association, it was found that one quarter of 510 urologists no longer performed certain procedures for fear of malpractice suits. Additionally, 40 percent of those urologists stated they would refer patients with complex cases to other physicians.
It is very important for urologists to speak with their patients about treatments and realistic expectations. These have been found to help minimize medical malpractice suits. Case in point, a patient, at the recommendation of his urologist, underwent an adult circumcision, however, the urologist forgot to warn his patient of the potential for impotence. If the physician had warned his patient of this danger of the procedure, the patient may have opted not to undergo the surgery. It has been found beneficial to provide patients with written documentation, listing risks and side effects for patients to read over and so they may reach a more informed decision.
Urologists should also recognize that patient authorization affords some, but not unlimited, protection from malpractice suits. In another case, an adult male undergoing a circumcision was found to have a cancerous lesion while under sedation. The physician decided it was in the best interest of the patient to perform a penectomy and amputated the man’s genitalia. Rather than take matters into his own hands, the urologist should have discussed his finding with the patient and given the patient time to make an informed decision.
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