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Could a surgeon's bad attitude actually endanger your health?

There's a stereotype that's seen on television and in movies of the "rude but brilliant" surgeon or medical specialist. The general idea is that their medical brilliance tends to make them abrupt around other people and impatient with the flawed mortals around them, including their patients.

As it turns out, that stereotype is more myth than reality. A study that compared surgical outcomes with patient reports of unprofessional behavior found that the surgeons with the most complaints were actually far worse doctors than their more humble and agreeable peers.

In specific, the study found that people treated badly by their doctors had nearly 14 percent more complications than the patients of other doctors. Complications included things like surgical-site infection, pneumonia, strokes, blood clots, and sepsis. The study analyzed data from 2011-2013 from 7 medical centers. About 800 surgeons and 32,000 adult patients participated in the study.

Researchers speculate that the rude behavior of the surgeons affect patient quality-of-care and surgical outcomes in several different ways:

-- Patients may be too intimidated to speak up about problems when they first notice them, so small issues evolve into larger ones.

-- Rude behavior can affect the ability of a surgeon's colleagues to communicate with him or her, which means important issues may go unaddressed.

-- A nurse or junior colleague may eventually develop low morale and stop speaking up, just to avoid the surgeon's hostility.

-- A surgeon's bad behavior might be enough to discourage good support staff and other colleagues from working with him or her entirely, leaving the surgeon reliant on those with inferior qualifications or experience.

The findings suggest that hospitals need to be more attentive to unsolicited complaints by patients or caregivers and family about mistreatment, verbal abuse, hostility or rudeness from their surgeons. Just reducing the unnecessary post-surgical complications could save more than $3 billion per year.

Do you think that you or a close family member suffered poor care by a surgeon? Could his or her rudeness have contributed to the bad outcome after surgery? If so, contact an attorney to discuss your case.

Source: health24, "Rude surgeons may make more errors during operations," Feb. 14, 2017

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