Defensive medicine in neurosurgery: The Canadian experience

Timothy R. Smith, M. Maher Hulou, Sandra C. Yan, David J. Cote, Brian V. Nahed, Maya A. Babu, Sunit Das, William B. Gormley, James T. Rutka, Edward R. Laws, Robert F. Heary

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

14 Scopus citations


Obj ective Recent studies have examined the impact of perceived medicolegal risk and compared how this perception impacts defensive practices within the US. To date, there have been no published data on the practice of defensive medicine among neurosurgeons in Canada. Methods?An online survey containing 44 questions was sent to 170 Canadian neurosurgeons and used to measure Canadian neurosurgeons' perception of liability risk and their practice of defensive medicine. The survey included questions on the following domains: surgeon demographics, patient characteristics, type of physician practice, surgeon liability profile, policy coverage, defensive behaviors, and perception of the liability environment. Survey responses were analyzed and summarized using counts and percentages. Results?A total of 75 neurosurgeons completed the survey, achieving an overall response rate of 44.1%. Over onethird (36.5%) of Canadian neurosurgeons paid less than 5000 for insurance annually. The majority (87%) of Canadian neurosurgeons felt confident with their insurance coverage, and 60% reported that they rarely felt the need to practice defensive medicine. The majority of the respondents reported that the perceived medicolegal risk environment has no bearing on their preferred practice location. Only 1 in 5 respondent Canadian neurosurgeons (21.8%) reported viewing patients as a potential lawsuit. Only 4.9% of respondents would have selected a different career based on current medicolegal risk factors, and only 4.1% view the cost of annual malpractice insurance as a major burden. Con clusions?Canadian neurosurgeons perceive their medicolegal risk environment as more favorable and their patients as less likely to sue than their counterparts in the US do. Overall, Canadian neurosurgeons engage in fewer defensive medical behaviors than previously reported in the US.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1524-1530
Number of pages7
JournalJournal of neurosurgery
Issue number5
StatePublished - May 2016

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Surgery
  • Clinical Neurology


  • Canada
  • Defensive medicine
  • Liability
  • Malpractice
  • Neurosurgery


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