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Surgical And Medical Error Claims In Ethiopia: Trends Observed From 125 Decisions Made By The Federal Ethics Committee For Health Professionals Ethics Review

Authors Wamisho BL, Tiruneh MA, Enkubahiry Teklemariam L

Received 17 June 2019

Accepted for publication 7 October 2019

Published 23 October 2019 Volume 2019:9 Pages 23—31


Checked for plagiarism Yes

Review by Single-blind

Peer reviewer comments 2

Editor who approved publication: Dr Bethany Spielman

Biruk L Wamisho,1 Mesafint Abeje Tiruneh,2 Lidiya Enkubahiry Teklemariam2

1Head, Department of Orthopaedics and Traumatology, Addis Ababa University (AAU), Addis Ababa, Ethiopia; 2Ethiopian Food, Medicine and Healthcare Administration and Control Authority, Addis Ababa, Ethiopia

Correspondence: Biruk L Wamisho
Head, Department of Orthopaedics and Traumatology, Addis Ababa University (AAU), Addis Ababa, Ethiopia

Background: Surgical and medical errors are not uncommon but the majority are often subtle. Even in highly developed countries, medical error is the third highest leading cause of death. Patient harm from medical error can occur at an individual or a system level.
Methods and materials: A decision data base of the Health Professionals Ethics Committee that reviews medical error complaints and malpractice claims available at Federal level was used. Descriptive statistics were used to describe and see trends observed over seven years, 2011–2017, inclusive. Numbers from National data were used to see the 10-year trend.
Results: In the seven-year review period, the committee made a final decision on 125 complaints. Over 20 types of health professions were present. Death was the issue in 72 (57.6%) of them and 27 (21.6%) of the claimants associated the error with bodily injury. The majority of complaints, 94 (75.2%), were from hospitals. Most of the complaints were surgical-related and emerged from the operation room (90/125, 72%). Forty-one (28.1%) complaints were against obstetricians and gynecologists, 15 (10.2%) against general surgeons, and eight (5.5%) against orthopedic surgeons. Among all complaints, in 27 (21.6%) claims, actual ethical breach or medical error was found. Gross professional negligence was observed in four of these and the professionals were permanently prevented from practicing medicine at all.
Conclusion: In Ethiopia, an increasing number of applications is filed for investigation of possible surgical/medical error. Most of the complaints did not result in payouts; only one fifth benefited the plaintiff. Some specialties are particularly at high risk for accusations.
Recommendations: The increasing number of complaints filed for medical error investigation in Ethiopia needs deeper investigation by all stakeholders. Routine patient safety measures have to be exercised to prevent/decrease incidents of surgical/medical errors.

Keywords: surgical and medical errors, ethics committee, health professionals, Ethiopia

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