The number of legal disputes in the field of medical liability has increased exponentially in the last decades. The aim of this study is to investigate the outcomes of criminal cases against healthcare professionals in Italian criminal courts. The hypothesis is that the majority of cases are dismissed and/or most professionals in these cases are acquitted. This retrospective analysis considers criminal proceedings related to medical professional liability registered with the general register of crime reports of the Public Prosecutor's Office of Rome in the time interval between 1 January 2000 and 31 December 2015. A total of 4793 criminal proceedings were ultimately identified. Proceedings related to the field of orthopedic trauma were then examined and identified. A complete analysis of 132 of the identified files (76.7%) was carried out. The field with the highest risk of disputes was determined to be the field of trauma. The most frequent complaint was found to arise from unsatisfactory surgical outcomes following elective surgery. The most affected anatomical district is the lower limb in both elective and trauma cases, followed by the upper limb in traumatology and spine cases. The surgeon is the most frequently quoted role of the professional involved. The number of physicians actually convicted (3.93%) and for whom liability was thus recognized, i.e., the existence of a causal link between their conduct and the event that took place was established, appears to be extremely small when compared with the far more significant values related to dismissals (53%) and acquittals (14.2%). Adequate legal reform aiming to reduce this disproportion is necessary to ensure physicians experience a more relaxed daily profession and to restore the original connotations of the doctor-patient relationship with the abolition of defensive medicine.
Keywords: criminal proceedings; malpractice; medical liability; orthopedic trauma practice.