Cameras in Operating Rooms to Combat “Ghost Surgeries”
When you arrive for surgery, you expect to be operated on by the surgeon with whom you have been consulting beforehand. And typically, this is what occurs. However, in some cases, someone else may take over for your surgeon without your knowledge.
This practice is called ghost surgery, and it is more common than it should be. It happens with such frequency that some are proposing that cameras be used in the operating room to combat this questionable practice.
Understanding Ghost Surgeries
A ghost surgery is essentially a breach of contract between a surgeon and their patient. The contract between these two parties can indeed be modified to allow another surgeon to perform an operation. However, without the consent of the patient, any material changes are likely illegal.
Why Ghost Surgery Is Wrong
Ghost surgeries are more than a type of breach of contract. A patient who undergoes surgery is under the impression that a particular professional is performing their operation.
The patient may have specifically sought out a particular surgeon to operate on them and may have asked numerous questions during their search, such as:
- How many times have you performed the surgery in question?
- What is your success rate for the surgery?
- What training do you have to perform the surgery?
The patient may have also chosen a particular surgeon simply based on the surgeon’s bedside manner and patient approach.
Hence, to swap out the patient’s choice for another surgeon is a direct violation of the patient’s desires.
Why Ghost Surgeries Occur
In some cases, ghost surgeries may be necessary due to unforeseen issues. For example, a surgeon may take ill or injure themselves just before or during a surgical procedure. If it is in the patient’s best interests to continue the surgery with another surgeon instead of scrapping the procedure, then the other surgeon should take over.
Sadly, in other cases, convenience is a reason why ghost surgeries occur. The surgeon may be stretched too thin and choose to hand off a surgical procedure to another surgeon or even an unauthorized or untrained worker. In no case is this a valid reason to switch out a surgeon.
Ghost surgeries may also occur because of training purposes. For example, a surgeon may call on a surgeon in training to stand in for them during surgery in order to learn. Once again, without a patient’s consent, this practice is not legal.
Cameras as a Solution
Despite the fact that ghost surgeries are a known problem in the medical industry, they still occur with enough frequency to cause concern. In some hospitals, ghost surgeries may even be standard practice.
As a solution, some propose that cameras be used in the operating room to ensure that the predetermined surgeon is the one performing the operation.
With video cameras in the operating rooms, patients and their loved ones could have the evidence they need to pursue medical malpractice claims against surgeons who practice ghost surgeries and cause injuries or death. Additionally, the presence of video cameras could lead to a sharp reduction in instances of ghost surgeries.
In South Korea, ghost surgeries became such a problem that lawmakers decided to implement cameras for any surgery where the patient is unconscious for some or all of the procedure. Additionally, patients have the right to request to have cameras installed during their surgery, even if they will not be unconscious.
Concerns About Cameras in the Operating Room
However, healthcare professionals — most notably surgeons — have raised some serious concerns about mandatory video cameras in the operating room.
First, doctors argue that the video camera requirement would undermine the trust that patients have in their doctors. Doctors believe that if patients are aware that video cameras are present to police bad-acting doctors, these patients would believe that doctors are not trustworthy.
Doctors also argue that the presence of cameras in the operating room violates a patient’s privacy. And if the cameras were mandatory, a patient would not have the right to choose to remove them.
Finally, doctors argue that cameras in the operating room would have a chilling effect on risk-taking activities surgeons sometimes engage in to save lives. Fearing liability, surgeons would not take many of the calculated risks they sometimes do when operating in a life-or-death situation.
Mandating cameras in the operating room comes with both benefits and challenges. But in any case, ghost surgery is an illegal practice that violates the contract between a patient and a surgeon.
If you or someone you love has been the victim of a ghost surgery and has suffered an injury, contact the medical malpractice team at Silberstein, Awad, & Miklos today to schedule a free consultation and case review.