Unnecessary Dangers: Elective Surgery and Defensive Medicine

If you’ve ever spent time on Twitter, you know that it is home to millions of playful, educational, and informative “hashtags,” or words or phrases preceded by a pound sign. Hashtags allow thousands of people to share their thoughts on a specific topic. While they can spark thoughtful discussion or spread breaking news, they can lead to downright hilarity.

One recent hashtag, #UnnecessarySurgicalProcedures, brought in dozens of funny responses. It included suggestions for making the heart more heart-shaped, eyeball realignment after too many eye rolls, and attachment of cell phones to hands for all-the-time access. Plenty of the responses are inappropriate, but many are very creative and witty. And while none of the responses in this hashtag are serious, it does raise an important question about surgery. Can a medical procedure be unnecessary?

Elective Surgery

A medical procedure that is not medically necessary is an elective procedure. Elective procedures are often associated with cosmetic and corrective procedures, like:

  • Liposuction
  • Botox
  • Face and neck lifts

Procedures such as these, though they can be life-changing, are generally not medically necessary, and do not need to be done to save the patient’s life. As a result, they are generally not covered by a patient’s insurance, and cost thousands of dollars.

Any kind of medical procedure, whether it’s excess fat removal or a kidney transplant, comes with risks. During any type of surgery, risk factors include:

  • Infection
  • Anesthesia errors
  • Blood pressure changes
  • Allergic reactions
  • Nerve damage

If a doctor is negligent or otherwise commits malpractice, the risks only intensify. When a patient is seriously injured during an elective procedure, they may still be able to pursue a medical malpractice case, even though their surgery was not medically necessary. Even when a procedure is for purely cosmetic reasons, patients still deserve excellent treatment and respect.

Defensive Medicine

Another area of medical malpractice that #UnnecessarySurgicalProcedures brings to mind is defensive medicine. This occurs when doctors recommend tests, procedures, and treatments that are not necessarily the best option for a patient. For example, if a patient is complaining of abdominal pains, a doctor might decide to remove the appendix, even though appendicitis doesn’t seem to be the cause. A doctor might do this to protect themselves against a medical malpractice claim, hoping that over-treating the patient will prevent any negligence or mistakes.

However, defensive medicine can lead to a variety of issues, ranging from radiation exposure to allergic reactions. When a patient undergoes unnecessary surgery or treatments, they face risks simply because their doctor hopes to prevent a lawsuit.

#UnnecessaryMedicalProcedures might be a silly hashtag, but it contributes to an important discussion about medical malpractice, elective surgery, and defensive medicine. Thanks, Twitter!


The attorneys at Perenich, Caulfield, Avril & Noyes represent those involved in car accidents, motorcycle accidents, bicycle accidents, pedestrian accidents, and other types of personal injury matters. Our firm is one of the oldest personal injury law firms in Tampa Bay. There are no attorneys’ fees or costs unless we prevail for you. Call our office 24 hours a day at 727-796-8282 or simply click here to schedule a free case consultation.

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