COMMENTARY

Medicare Overpayment; Older Doctors Sued; Health Benefits

Wayne J. Guglielmo, MA

Disclosures

March 16, 2012

In This Article

Older Anesthesiologists Get Sued More Often

In a study published in the March issue of Anesthesiology, a group of Canadian researchers sought to find out whether older specialists are sued more often than their younger colleagues.[2]

The researchers looked at 10 years of billing data for all procedures performed by anesthesiologists from British Columbia, Quebec, and Ontario. Doctors were divided into 3 age groups: younger than 51 years, 61-64 years, and 65 years or older. For the corresponding time span, the team also obtained litigation records in which anesthesiologists were considered to be "partially responsible for the adverse event leading to the complaint."

After reviewing the data, researchers found that there was in fact "a higher frequency of litigation and a greater severity of injury in patients treated by anesthesiologists in the 65 and older age group."

Researchers could not determine, however, "the underlying mechanism for the increased risk." Are older specialists sued more often, even in a relatively nonlitigious country, such as Canada, because they tire more easily and are therefore less vigilant? Or is it because compared with their younger colleagues, they have a longer response time, have poorer communication skills, or are less likely to keep up with continuing medical education in their field?

These questions and others, the researchers concluded, "should become an active field of research."

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