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Open Access Open Badges Research

Malpractice awareness among surgeons at a teaching hospital in Pakistan

Asfandyar Sheikh*, Sajid Ali, Sadaf Ejaz, Marium Farooqi, Syed Salman Ahmed and Imran Jawaid

Author Affiliations

Dow Medical College, Dow University of Health Sciences, Karachi, Pakistan

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Patient Safety in Surgery 2012, 6:26  doi:10.1186/1754-9493-6-26

Published: 6 November 2012



The duty of a doctor to take care presumes the person who offers medical advice and treatment to unequivocally possess the skills and knowledge to do so. However, a sense of responsibility cannot be guaranteed in the absence of accountability, which in turn requires a comprehensive medical law system to be in place. Such a system is almost non-existent in Pakistan. Keeping the above in mind, we designed this study to assess the knowledge, attitudes and practices of surgeons regarding malpractice at a tertiary care center in Pakistan.


This was an observational, cross-sectional, questionnaire-based study conducted during a three month period from 31st March, 2012 to 30th June, 2012 at Civil Hospital, Karachi. Surgeons who were available during the period of our study and had been working in the hospital for at least 6 months were included. Self-administered questionnaires were distributed after seeking informed, written consent. The specialties included were general surgery, cardiothoracic surgery, neurosurgery, ophthalmology, otolaryngology, plastic surgery, pediatric surgery, orthopedic surgery, oral and maxillofacial surgery and gynecology and obstetrics. The study questionnaire comprised of four sections. The first section was concerned with the demographics of the surgeons. The second section analyzed the knowledge of the respondents regarding professional negligence and malpractice. The third section assessed the attitudes surgeons with regard to malpractice. The last section dealt with the general and specific practices and experiences of surgeons regarding malpractice.


Of the 319 surgeons interviewed, 68.7% were oblivious of the complete definition of malpractice. Leaving foreign objects inside the patient (79.6%) was the most commonly agreed upon form of malpractice, whereas failure to break news in entirety (43.9%) was most frequently disagreed. In the event of a medical error, majority (67.7%) were ready to disclose their error to the patient. The most common perceived reason for not disclosing the error was threat of a claim or assault (90.9%). Majority (68.3%) believed that malpractice had a negative effect on reputation. Only 13(4.1%) had received at least one legal claim for damages. Only about three-fourths (75.5%) had the habit of frequently obtaining informed consent from the patients. 83(26.0%) expressed reluctance in accepting a case that was deemed to be difficult. Financial gains and liabilities were responsible for biased approach in 8.5% and 12.2% of the respondents respectively.


There is a dire need of programs aimed at increasing awareness among practicing surgeons in our setup. Proactive measures are required for the formulation of an efficient system of litigation. Physician accountability will not only arouse a greater sense of responsibility in them, but will also augment the confidence placed by patients on the healthcare system.

Malpractice; Negligence; Knowledge; Attitudes; Practices; Teaching hospital; Pakistan