Malpractice suits related to laser skin surgery soar

February 25, 2013

Legal action related to cutaneous laser procedures have increased significantly in the past three decades, according to results of a recent study, and even doctors who aren’t personally handling the devices are being named in litigation.

 

Legal action related to cutaneous laser procedures have increased significantly in the past three decades, according to results of a recent study, and even doctors who aren’t personally handling the devices are being named in litigation.

Researchers with Massachusetts General Hospital, Boston, searched a national database of online public legal documents to find common causes of lawsuits, claims and injuries related to cutaneous laser surgery cases, according to the study abstract.

There were 174 cases related to injuries from laser procedures from 1985 to 2012, researchers found. And although a nonphysician operated the laser devices in most of the cases, their physician supervisors were also listed as defendants in the litigation.

The most common preventable cause of action was a failure to get an informed consent from the patient. In cases with public decisions, 50.8 percent resulted in decisions in favor of the plaintiff, according to the abstract. The mean indemnity payment was $380,719.

“Nonphysicians performing these procedures will be held to a standard of care corresponding to an individual with appropriate training,” study authors concluded. “Thus, physicians are ultimately responsible for the actions of their nonphysician agents.”

The findings were published in the February issue of JAMA Dermatology.