Article Abstract

Urethral catheters and medical malpractice: a legal database review from 1965 to 2015

Authors: Mohannad A. Awad, E. Charles Osterberg, Helena Chang, Thomas W. Gaither, Amjad Alwaal, Ryan Fox, Benjamin N. Breyer


Background: Urethral catheters (UCs) are commonly used in medicine and are associated with complications such as urinary tract infections (UTIs) and trauma. Given UC complications and their ubiquitous usage in healthcare, there is a potential for liability risk. We aim to explore litigation involving UC-related complications.
Methods: The LexisNexis legal database was queried for all state and federal cases from January 1965 through October 2015 using the terms “urethral catheter” or “Foley catheter” in combination with “medical malpractice”, “negligence”, “medical error”, and “trauma”. Each case was reviewed for reported medical characteristics and legal aspects, including the outcome of the case.
Results: Our search yielded 29 cases. Urologists were the most common providers cited as defendants (21%), all of whom were successful in their defense. The most common malpractice claim was for traumatic insertion (48%). Pain was the most common type of damage claimed by plaintiffs (28%), followed by UTI (24%). Nineteen (66%) cases favored defendants, while 10 (34%) cases favored the plaintiffs, of which 2 (7%) were settled out of the court. In settled cases, the mean settlement received by plaintiffs was $55,750 (range, $25,000–$86,500). The mean award to plaintiffs for cases determined by the court was $112,991 (range, $4,000–$325,000).
Conclusions: Despite widespread usage of UC over a 50-year period, lawsuits centered on UC misuse are rare at the state and federal court levels. Of litigated cases, urologists are commonly involved yet have successful defenses.