oa South African Medical Journal - Impressions of defensive medical practice and medical litigation among South African neurosurgeons : forum - opinion

Volume 104, Issue 11
  • ISSN : 0256-9574
  • E-ISSN: 2078-5135



From a litigation perspective, neurosurgery is considered a 'super high-risk' field, and this has been associated with rapidly increasing malpractice cover costs. In 2013 the annual Medical Protection Society fee for cover was R250 900. We wished to determine whether high malpractice cover was influencing how neurosurgeons managed patients. A 40-question online survey asking questions on defensive medicine was distributed to determine perceptions around liability risk and whether these influenced how patients were managed. Eighty-four per cent of respondents agreed that a medicolegal crisis existed, and over half (53.8%) had been sued for malpractice during their career. Altering practice behaviour to minimise the risk of a lawsuit is common. The increasing number of legal claims against respondents in this survey has resulted in most neurosurgeons practising defensive medicine. Arguably this will result in increased healthcare costs, inferior patient care and decreased access to skilled surgeons.

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