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James T. Rutka

With this landmark issue of the Journal of Neurosurgery (JNS), we celebrate the 75th anniversary of continuous publication of articles in neurosurgery. It is likely not a coincidence that the diamond anniversary of the JNS coincides precisely with the 150th anniversary of the birth of Harvey Cushing. It is possible that some events in life are inextricably and cosmically tied together, such as the birth of the founding father of our specialty, the society named after him that ultimately became the American Association of Neurological Surgeons (AANS), and the journal of this organization—the JNS.

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Aviva Abosch and James T. Rutka

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Douglas Kondziolka and James T. Rutka

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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 Jr. and Robert F. Heary


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.


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.


A total of 75 neurosurgeons completed the survey, achieving an overall response rate of 44.1%. Over one-third (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.


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.