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Medical malpractice may occur when your surgeon leaves the room

Anyone anticipating an operation in a New York hospital may be concerned. Recent reports name surgical mistakes as one of the leading causes of death and reasons for medical malpractice claims in the country. However, it may be surprising to learn that the doctor a patient authorizes to do the surgery may not be the one actually performing the operation. In fact, a surgeon may not even be in the room while the patient is anesthetized.

The practice of double-booking surgeries is apparently common in many teaching hospitals. A senior surgeon may have numerous operations running simultaneously in different operating rooms. Fellows or residents may perform crucial parts of the surgery while the surgeon moves from room to room, although in some cases, the surgeon leaves the surgical floor altogether. A recent investigation brought the issue to the public eye by reporting that the staff of one of the leading teaching hospitals in the country blames double-booking for the deaths of two patients and the permanent paralysis of another.

Surgical students are often left to complete procedures without supervision -- or patients are kept under anesthesia for dangerous lengths of time -- because senior surgeons leave the room and cannot be located. A surgeon supervising multiple procedures at once can also bill for multiple procedures, even if he or she is only in the room for a few seconds. Many opponents of the practice believe this puts patients in a dangerous position. Often, when a patient signs a general surgical release form, the patient is not told that the surgeon will not actually perform the operation.

Hospital officials insist the decades-old practice is safe. Nevertheless, numerous patients have suffered serious complications or lost their lives when a senior surgeon left them in the hands of a student doctor at a critical moment. Patients in New York who believe their surgical complications resulted from an unsupervised operation have the right to seek answers. One place to start may be the office of a medical malpractice attorney.

Source: philly.com, "Is your surgeon double-booked?", Sandra G. Boodman, July 11, 2017

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