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Introduction

With the exception of obstetrics, surgical specialties and anesthesia have historically had the largest medical malpractice losses. This is due to both the increased opportunities for problems implicit in surgery and to the psychology of surgical practice. The confidence and decisiveness that are basic requirements for a good surgeon tend to encourage patients to have unreasonable expectations for the results of surgery. Anesthesiologists have the special problem of bearing full responsibility for injuries but limited authority to control the care of the patient. Despite this dilemma, anesthesia practice has been the only real preventive law success story. Through a combination of improved technology, tighter standards for practice, and the elimination of many marginal practitioners, anesthesia-related medical malpractice losses have declined for the past several years.


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