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Heart Implant Devices Could Lead to Complications for Some

Typically people go see a doctor in order to treat an injury. The last thing that a patient wants is to suffer a serious injury because of a doctor or hospital staff member. However, there are some situations where patients are injured because of things like negligence, misdiagnosis, and surgeon error. The consequences can be deadly for the patient.

Some cases of medical malpractice are obvious, like when a surgeon accidentally leaves a surgical tool behind in a patient. But what about the less obvious cases? Recently the American Medical Association released statistics that show one in five heart defibrillators are unnecessarily implanted in patients.

According to the study, over 20 percent of patients who had the device implanted should not have gotten the implant. In most of those cases, it was found that those patients were more likely to experience health complications and even die.

Typically the defibrillator device is implanted in patients who experience advanced heart failure; the device can keep their heart beating at a normal pace. There are guidelines that recommend what type of patient should receive the implanted device. Types of patients who are not recommended to undergo the implant surgery include those who suffered recent heart attacks and those who have recently experienced heart failure.

Despite the warnings, doctors are still implanting the heart defibrillators into patients who do not need it. Though it is not certain, some researchers believe that the unnecessary surgeries are still happening because doctors are not aware of the guidelines or research that recommends against it.

But what happens if doctors are aware of the dangers and still choose to implant the device? If the patient dies because of the device, can the doctor be held liable?

Source: MSNBC Health online, "Study: 1 in 5 defibrillator implants unneeded," Carla K. Johnson, 05 January 2011

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