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Does your Georgia surgeon have malpractice insurance?

Whatever kind of surgery you need to have, there's always the possibility that something could go wrong. There's even a possibility that your surgeon will make a mistake.

Here's the sobering reality: According to the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, there are more than 4,000 surgical "never" events every year in the United States. That means that a surgeon made a mistake so basic that it simply never should happen -- like operating on the wrong body part of leaving a foreign object inside a patient after surgery.

When things like that happen, patients can be seriously injured or killed and their families can be devastated emotionally and financially. This is why medical malpractice insurance exists. In many cases, victims and their families desperately need the money from a claim against a doctor's malpractice insurance to remain financially stable and get the ongoing medical care they need.

Unfortunately, your Georgia surgeon may not actually have any -- and there's no way for you to know for certain. Lawmakers in the state mandated physicians to disclose whether or not they have malpractice insurance to the Georgia Composite Medical Board as part of the amendments to the Patient Right to Know Act eight years ago. However, a "software issue" has kept the board from updating physician profiles with the correct information. There are at least 2,200 physicians -- active surgeons among them -- operating in the state without malpractice insurance.

That's scary. If a patient is harmed by a surgeon's inept or negligent care, the patient has to hope that the surgeon has enough assets to cover the damages -- and that's unlikely if the patient dies or is seriously injured.

While it might be an awkward conversation to have, don't go under the knife unless you're sure that your surgeon is responsible enough to have coverage. Otherwise, you're taking a lot of additional risks with that surgery that you don't need.

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