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Obes Surg. 1999 Oct;9(5):420-5.

The medical malpractice risk associated with bariatric surgery.

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Department of Surgery, Louisiana State University School of Medicine, New Orleans 70112, USA.



Bariatric surgery has been classified as high risk by the medical malpractice industry, but it is unclear what data support this classification. When a small group of physicians is separated from their peers and asked to support their malpractice claims, their premiums will often rise unfairly in relation to the outcome of the claims. This report outlines the results of a survey sent to the members of the American Society for Bariatric Surgery (ASBS) asking for information on malpractice claims.


Surveys were mailed to the 285 ASBS members requesting which bariatric operations were performed, how many procedures were completed each year, details of any suits filed against the member including final outcome, and information on whether the members also performed gastric surgery for ulcer disease.


Surveys were returned by 165 members (58%) from surgeons in 33 states and Washington, D.C. Malpractice claims had been made after 107 bariatric procedures and three ulcer procedures with the risk of a suit being filed for a bariatric procedure being approximately 1.6/1,000 cases. The average monetary award was $88,667. Of the suits that resulted in a jury trial, 14% agreed with the plaintiff. Over half the cases that had been resolved were either dropped or dismissed before trial.


The incidence of suit being brought against ASBS members performing bariatric procedures is low. Once filed, most cases do not reach a jury trial. Settlements are usually under $100,000. These data suggest that this group of bariatric surgeons do not represent a disproportionately large risk pool for medical malpractice insurance companies.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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