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How to research your surgeon

There's no such thing as "minor" surgery. All surgery has the potential for complications, and surgical errors are the second-most common reason for medical malpractice claims, accounting for roughly 25% of the cases that end up being brought against medical professionals as a whole.

If you're about to have surgery for any reason, it's smart to look into your surgeon's background -- before you let them operate. You cannot trust hospitals and medical practices to police themselves and get rid of bad surgeons because they don't want to open themselves up to liability by publicly admitting that a doctor is incompetent.

Here's how to protect yourself:

  1. Contact the Federation of State Medical Boards (FSMB). Use its "Learn About Your Physician" tool to get information about the surgeon's license and record.
  2. Ask the FSMB for your surgeon's disciplinary history. This is available for a modest fee and can tell you about malpractice claims, criminal convictions and discipline from the board.
  3. Look at ProPublica and Consumer's Checkbook. Both hold information compiled from Medicare data about surgeon's rates of procedures and complications.
  4. Check out You can compare your prospective surgeon's rate of success to that of other surgeons for 12 common types of surgery.
  5. Do a Google search. Consumers are increasingly proactive about their experiences with doctors of all kinds. and are both sites that allow patients to share their thoughts on the doctors they've seen.

Finally, talk to your surgeon. Ask if there is any possibility that you are a candidate for a less aggressive or non-invasive approach. Make sure that you're comfortable with both their answer and their ability to explain why the surgery is necessary.

If you're injured due to a surgeon's mistake or your loved one is hurt, find out more about what it takes to initiate a successful medical malpractice claim.

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