5 Controversial Medical Treatments Used in Modern Medicine

March 3, 2023 | Attorney, Matthew Dolman
5 Controversial Medical Treatments Used in Modern Medicine

Controversial Medical Treatments and Lawsuits

Doctors perform controversial medical treatments every day across the United States. These controversial treatments may increase the risk of a doctor or medical professional acting negligently or making an error during the procedure. When a doctor or healthcare professional makes a medical error and deviates from the standard of care, they can and should be held accountable.

Not all controversial medical treatments result in a lawsuit, but many do!

If you believe that your medical provider caused you harm and acted negligently, you have a right to file a medical malpractice lawsuit. Whether you undergo a controversial modern medical treatment or a routine procedure, you deserve to have the best medical care at all times. An experienced medical malpractice attorney can review your case to determine if you can file a lawsuit against the physician or medical professional that caused you harm.

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The Top 5 Controversial Medical Treatments

Controversial modern medical treatments can cause undue harm to patients and serve as the basis for a medical malpractice claim. Some of these controversial medical treatments are brand new, but some are centuries-old medical practices.

The unifying factor of all of them is their controversial nature and potential for causing harm. Doctors perform them every day to treat severe injuries. It's vital to understand what they are, when they are used, and what damage they can cause to a patient.

The following are five of the types of medical practices deemed most controversial:

1. Electroshock Therapy Can Cause Damage to the Brain

The medical community introduced electroconvulsive therapy (ECT), or Electroshock therapy, as a medical therapy in the 1930s. The procedure is used on patients with major depression or bipolar disorder that does not respond to traditional treatment. It involves placing electrodes on the forehead and passing electric currents into the brain. The electricity then causes a seizure which lasts 30 to 60 seconds on average.

Although studies have shown ECT treatments to be highly effective in relieving depression and bipolar syndrome, the treatment has always been controversial for the possible damage it could cause to the brain. Some side effects of ECT include memory problems, learning difficulties, severe headaches, confusion, and fatigue. The treatment was also controversial because some patients were not sedated or given any anesthesia in the beginning years of the therapy. The level of electricity used was also far too high and caused permanent brain damage.

How Hollywood Affected the Perception of Electroshock Therapy

Early electroshock therapy was an understandably terrifying process that many patients feared. Anyone who has seen One Flew over the Cuckoo's Nest or American Horror Story: Asylum knows just how terrifying the treatment was.

One Flew over the Cuckoo's Nest is credited with the therapy's tarnished image in mainstream society. Due to the backlash to ECT following that film's release, the process became safer with modifications in the current duration and ways to calm the patient. The changes came too late, as society already determined the treatment to be too controversial and dangerous.

Today, patients receive anesthesia and electricity doses that are much more controlled, as well as muscle relaxers that prevent convulsive seizures. Even with modern changes, the treatment still generally causes the same side effects. It can damage short-term memory and, in rare cases, cause serious heart problems.

ECT is never used as first-line therapy because of its undesirable side effects and stigma. Today, it is more common to use talk therapy or pharmaceuticals to treat psychiatric issues.

However, the treatment still works for patients who cannot get relief from severe depression or schizophrenia through traditional measures. ECT is also used to treat patients at extreme risk for suicide and who suffer from severe mania. According to experts, 75 to 85 percent of patients who receive ECT recover from their symptoms.

2. Craniotomy or Trepanation Can Leave a Patient Permanently Disabled

Trepanning is an infamous surgical technique that involves removing or drilling a hole in the patient's skull. Cave paintings point to the practice being at least 8,000 years old. The procedure was initially thought to help cure migraines, seizures, and severe psychiatric disorders.

In modern medicine, surgeons opt to call the procedure craniotomy instead. It involves temporarily removing part of the bone from the skull, called the bone flap, to give the surgeon access to the brain for surgery.

The following are some of the reasons a surgeon would use a craniotomy:

  • Remove a tumor
  • Repair a skull fracture or aneurysm
  • Relieve cranial swelling
  • Remove blood clots
  • Drain a brain abscess
  • Treat epilepsy

Some people undergo the procedure voluntarily to provide them with relief from psychiatric issues. Famously, Peter Halvorson performed trepanation on himself in 1972 with an electric drill. To this day, he is an enthusiastic supporter of the technique.

The Dangers of Craniotomy

A craniectomy can save a person's life if their brain is swelling. Although the procedure can assist with many issues present in the brain, it can also cause undue damage that can cause severe injury or disability.

The following are some of the risk factors involved with a craniotomy:

A recent study found that the procedure "can drastically reduce the risk of death, with about 30 percent of patients dying following the procedure compared to 52 percent of those treated with standard medical care." 

However, "people treated with a craniectomy were three times more likely to wind up in a vegetative state … and often were as likely to suffer long-term disabilities as patients receiving standard medical care."

Risk factors and controversy will always be associated with a procedure that calls for a surgeon to cut a hole in your brain. A craniotomy can treat severe brain damage, but a doctor's negligent behavior could have life-threatening consequences.

3. Circumcision is a Controversial Medical Procedure Done on Babies

Circumcision is one of the most controversial medical topics among people welcoming newborns today. Although it is a fairly simple procedure, it prompts strong reactions from doctors, surgeons, and patients on both sides of the issue. Circumcision involves a doctor or surgeon cutting off the foreskin from the penis and exposing the glans (head).

The procedure involves separating a newborn baby's foreskin from the rest of the penis with a scalpel to expose the glans. Circumcisions ordinarily happen a day after the baby is born. In the Jewish faith, the procedure is called a bris and occurs eight days after the baby is born. The practice has been done for thousands of years for health and religious reasons.

The following are some of the medical and health reasons for circumcision:

  • To treat certain penile conditions, such as balanitis 
  • Reduces the chance of a male giving a female partner cervical cancer
  • Reduces the chance of penile cancer or urinary tract infections

The Cons of Circumcision Procedures

Although the procedure is ordinarily harmless, it can result in bleeding, infection, or irritation at the tip of the penis. Problems could also arise if the baby has an adverse reaction to the anesthesia needed for the procedure. Most of the controversy about circumcisions involves a parent feeling uncomfortable with a doctor cutting off a piece of a perfectly healthy body part from their child.

Since there is little medical evidence either way, it is often a personal decision made between parents. Some people believe putting a baby through unnecessary pain is wrong, while others believe it is a religious must or can help their child later in life. No matter what the opinions are, the procedure will continue to take place, with parents having a personal decision on whether they want their baby to get a circumcision.

4. Bariatric Surgery (Weight Loss Surgery) Could Cause Wrongful Death

Bariatric surgery is nowadays known as weight-loss or gastric bypass surgery and is performed on morbidly obese patients to decrease their weight. The procedure causes patients to lose weight by removing a portion of the stomach or placing a band around it to restrict its size.

Studies have shown that there are genuine risks of serious health complications. In a survey of 2,522 patients who had the surgery, 21.9% developed problems during the hospital stay, and 40% experienced issues within six months of the procedure. One out of 50 patients who have the surgery will die from complications.

The controversy also has to do with people believing others shouldn't get a possibly dangerous procedure for something they can fix with changes in their diet or workout routine. However, some people have issues losing weight, no matter how hard they try. There is also no doubt that the surgery is an effective treatment for those who struggle with losing weight.

Depending on the type of procedure, patients can lose between 50 and 70 percent of their excess weight. That can make a monumental difference for a patient that struggles with weight loss. Between its effectiveness and the growing obesity problem in America, the surgery shows no sign of slowing. The procedure will remain controversial for ethical and health reasons.

5. Tonsillectomy Could Cause Unnecessary Suffering

Tonsillectomy is one of the most well-known procedures in the world. The basic idea of the surgery is to cure repeated cases of acute tonsillitis (repeated inflammation of the tonsils) by removing the lymph nodes. The procedure was much more common in the 1980s but has recently become popular again with diagnoses of sleep apnea. In general, this surgery has always been more common in children.

Critics of tonsillectomies claim that removing the tonsils does little to improve the symptoms in the long term and causes unnecessary suffering. Besides the pain, a recent study linked tonsillectomies to dramatic weight gain in children. The procedure increases the chances of a child becoming overweight or obese by 61 percent in cases where the adenoids are left in. When the adenoids are removed along with the tonsils, the risk goes up by 136 percent.

Despite the risk of child obesity, the procedure will continue because of its effectiveness in treating tonsillitis. As a parent, you should keep aware of the risks to help your child avoid the possible risk factors following the surgery.

Can I File a Medical Malpractice Lawsuit Because of Controversial Medical Treatments?

Lawsuits over medical procedures are usually filed on the basis of medical malpractice. While some treatments may be deemed controversial, that does not mean that a doctor can be sued because they provided them. However, these controversial medical procedures may provide more opportunities for a doctor to engage in medical malpractice, which is when they negligently deviate from the standard of care and injure a patient.

The standard of care is the quality of treatment expected of a medical professional based on comparison to their peers in the same situation. It does not have to be a doctor that perpetrates medical malpractice. Other parties, such as hospitals and other medical professionals, may also be considered liable.

When you file a medical malpractice claim, you need to be able to prove this breach of the standard of care and show that this breach is what caused your injuries. This is not always applicable just because a treatment is controversial.

However, if a controversial treatment results in damage outside of the reasonable side effects of the procedure, the healthcare provider may have behaved negligently and can be liable for a medical malpractice claim. An experienced medical malpractice lawyer can help you file a claim or lawsuit with the at-fault party's insurance company.

How Can a Medical Malpractice Lawyer Help You With Your Medical Malpractice Claim?

You can pursue damages, including medical bills, lost work, and pain and suffering, by filing a medical malpractice claim. Proving medical malpractice can be a challenge, especially when dedicating so much energy to your recovery. Doctors, surgeons, and hospitals all have more resources than a regular person trying to pursue compensation, which is why hiring a medical malpractice lawyer is a must.

The following are some of the ways a medical malpractice lawyer can help you pursue compensation:

  • Collect evidence: You will need to prove that the at-fault party's negligence led to the damages you are pursuing compensation for. Your medical malpractice attorney can prove this by presenting evidence, such as videos, witness statements, hospital records, and diagnostic test results.
  • Organize records: Providing records is an essential way of proving the at-fault party's liability, as they can show what was supposed to happen, what ended up happening, and the financial cost of negligence. Your medical malpractice lawyer can get in touch with the agencies necessary to collect important records, including medical records, hospital records, healthcare policies, etc.
  • Negotiate with the insurance company: Your medical malpractice attorney can handle negotiations while you focus on your recovery. An insurance company will always place a priority on keeping their profits up over giving you a fair settlement. Your medical malpractice lawyer can combat any tactics to limit your potential settlement and use their experience negotiating with insurance companies to get you fair compensation.
  • Represent you in court: You will have to file a medical malpractice lawsuit if your lawyer and the insurance company cannot reach a settlement. The purpose of the court case is for a jury of your peers to determine if the healthcare provider is liable for the damages caused to you. Your medical malpractice lawyer can develop the court plan, use the discovery process effectively, deliver emphatic opening and closing statements, and use expert witnesses to enhance your case.

Contact Dolman Law Group for Help With Your Medical Malpractice Claim

Despite the risks involved in some controversial medical treatments, you expect your healthcare provider to take the precautions necessary to keep you safe. Just because a medical treatment is controversial does not mean they have the right to act negligently and cause extra harm. If you received an injury from a common or risky medical procedure, contact Dolman Law Group's experienced medical malpractice attorneys.

Our law firm employs experienced personal injury lawyers who have handled hundreds of cases involving unnecessary injuries during medical procedures. They have an excellent success rate with medical malpractice cases and only plan on adding to that list of achievements in the future. Our medical malpractice lawyers can assess your damages, collect proof to establish a connection between a healthcare provider's negligence and your injuries, and help you pursue fair compensation through a settlement or award.

We're proud to represent anyone who is a victim of medical negligence or unnecessary complications. Contact us if this has happened to you or a loved one or if you want to know your options regarding a medical malpractice claim. Call us at (866) 643-7535 or leave us a message on our online contact form.


Matthew Dolman

Personal Injury Lawyer

This article was written and reviewed by Matthew Dolman. Matt has been a practicing civil trial, personal injury, products liability, and mass tort lawyer since 2004. He has successfully fought for more than 11,000 injured clients and acted as lead counsel in more than 1,000 lawsuits. Always on the cutting edge of personal injury law, Matt is actively engaged in complex legal matters, including Suboxone, AFFF, and Ozempic lawsuits.  Matt is a lifetime member of the Million Dollar Advocates Forum and Multi-Million Dollar Advocates Forum for resolving individual cases in excess of $1 million and $2 million, respectively. He has also been selected by his colleagues as a Florida Superlawyer and as a member of Florida’s Legal Elite on multiple occasions. Further, Matt has been quoted in the media numerous times and is a sought-after speaker on a variety of legal issues and topics.

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