No matter what type of surgery you’re preparing to head into the hospital for, it’s normal to be nervous and have some concerns. Your surgeon should address those concerns and explain to you what will happen before, during, and after your surgery. While you will be aware of some of the preoperative steps, you will most likely be voluntarily unconscious with anesthesia during the actual operation.
You expect the surgeon who has been planning your procedure to be the one who performs it. Unfortunately, that doesn’t always happen. As a result, patients get injured and have to deal with unexpected expenses and longer recoveries. Let’s take a look at what ghost surgery is and what the potential consequences are when it’s performed.
What Is Ghost Surgery?
Ghost surgery is ethically and legally questionable. It happens when a surgeon performs surgery on another surgeon’s patient. While the surgeons are aware of the arrangement, the patient is not. Even if the operation goes as planned, it can be distressing for a patient to learn that someone other than who they expected performed their surgery. Agreeing to undergo an operation required confidence and trust. When that trust is intentionally breached, the patient has the right to file a civil claim.
While there are legitimate instances where surgeons need to switch places, like in the event of a sudden emergency or if a resident is assisting with a surgery under close supervision from an experienced doctor, patients should always be informed of the possibility beforehand. It’s crucial for patients to provide consent for any and all medical procedures, which confirms they understand the risks and benefits of undergoing their operation.
Ghost Surgeries and Teaching Hospitals
In the United States, residents begin internships in teaching hospitals in July. Referred to as the “July Effect,” this is the time when shift changes take place in academic hospitals and there’s the potential for inexperienced doctors to increase the risks of medical care. According to an article from 2010, titled “A July Spike in Fatal Medication Errors: A Possible Effect of New Medical Residents,” there is a significant spike in fatal medication errors in medical institutions in July.
In regard to surgery, when a patient undergoes an operation in a teaching hospital with a residency program, it’s likely that residents will be involved in their operation and postoperative care. This, however, does not mean that inexperienced residents should perform complex procedures. Teaching hospitals exist to help new doctors learn how to perform surgery from an experienced surgeon. If a surgeon lets a resident perform a procedure they’re not ready for, the patient could get seriously injured.
To reduce the risk of a ghost surgery in a teaching hospital, patients should ask questions and find a doctor they are comfortable with. Patients have the right to research a doctor’s education and medical experience, so they know ahead of time what the doctor is capable of. Questions to consider asking for informational purposes and to hold the surgeon accountable include the following:
- Who will be performing my surgery?
- How long should the procedure take?
- Which parts of the surgery will a resident be allowed to perform?
- What happens in the event the assigned surgeon is not available?
- What should I feel like when I wake up?
The Legal Implications of Ghost Surgery
According to a report from Louisiana State University, patients and jurors do not believe surgeons are interchangeable. A patient’s choice of surgeon is as important as the informed consent of the surgery. In the event a surgeon intentionally misleads a patient about the identity of the person who will perform their procedure, they are committing medical malpractice.
In the event a ghost procedure takes place and a surgical error occurs, the patient will likely not be aware of who actually performed their operation. If that patient decides to pursue a medical malpractice claim to seek recovery, they could go up against the hospital for letting the ghost surgery take place, the surgeon who injured them, and the surgeon who mislead and passed the operation to someone else.
Learn About Your Legal Rights With Shrager & Sachs, LLC
In the event you believe you’ve been the victim of a ghost surgery or you’ve sustained injuries as a result of medical malpractice, get in touch with a medical malpractice lawyer from Shrager & Sachs. We have extensive experience representing victims of medical negligence, and we’re prepared to take your case on next.
Medical malpractice claims are among the most complex personal injury claims. This is because of the proof you need to establish a valid claim and recover compensation. In order to do so, you’ll want to get in touch with a lawyer as soon as possible after you were injured or discovered your injury. Contact us today to learn more.