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Surgery Scams: The Secret World of Unnecessary Operations

Whether its cardiac or neuro, arthroscopic or thoracic, surgery is generally conducted with the goal of healing some sort of malady in the human body.  Even plastic surgery is performed with some corrective aim.  After all, we trust our doctors to inform us of these irregularities and perform the appropriate procedures.  If our doctor suggests surgery, we are likely to consent, trusting the professional’s expertise.   But what if your doctor were to recommend surgery when there was nothing to correct, no irregularity to address?  While this scenario may seem unfathomable, this is the unfortunate reality for many Americans.  With little to no medical knowledge and an unquestioned faith in our doctors, many people have been placed under the knife for no good reason.

In a recent article in USA Today, authors Peter Eisler and Barbara Hansen profiled several individuals who were subjected to surgeries that were neither wanted nor warranted.  As these profiles quickly make clear, many lives have been altered and careers have been ruined by tip of a doctor’s unnecessary scalpel.  With patients’ insurers footing the bills, doctors are able to enrich themselves by billing providers for procedures that have no medical justification.

Such instances are not limited to those individuals mentioned in the article.  Since 2005, over 1,000 doctors have made payments in order to either close or settle claims of malpractice in which the primary allegations were unnecessary medical procedures.  While this number may sound staggering, such claims may only begin to scrape the surface.  According to the authors, unnecessary surgeries may account for 10% to 20% of all procedures in some medical specialties, with many more never coming to light.

While only the victim endures the physical effects of unnecessary surgery, the financial fallout is born upon society at large.  With Medicare, Medicaid, and private insurance providers spending billions on unwarranted medical procedures, the wallets of nearly every person are affected in some way.  Whether its higher taxes, increased premiums, or exorbitant medical bills, consumers and taxpayers are left to foot the bill for these unnecessary surgeries.

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