Few medical situations have the ability to invoke the kind of fear and anxiety felt by patients about to undergo surgery, and for very good reason. Their life is, quite literally, in the hands of the surgeon and his or her medical team. The patient is completely vulnerable—unconscious and unaware of their surroundings and circumstances. Potential risks and unexpected surgical complications can, and sometimes do, arise. But now there is a new surgical danger that patients fear… or they would if they were aware of its presence.
The “Secret” Risk of Surgery Today
There is a secret inside of operating rooms today; it is shared among nurses, surgeons, anesthetists, and even hospital administrators but often kept from the patients being operated on. Surgeons—in an attempt to balance out the high demand for their skills and the increased pressure to earn more capital—are double-booking surgeries. Their time and attention are split between two or more operating rooms at once, sometimes for the entire duration of one or more surgical procedures, and some of the responsibilities are handed off to student residents or other attending surgeons.
Most patients are not aware that they will be sharing their doctor prior to their procedure, and some never learn of it, especially if their surgery ended without complication. There are a select few that do learn of such practices, however, but it is usually long after the damage has been done. In the end, they feel betrayed, and they are left to question if they would have had the same surgical outcome, had their surgeon been present for the entire procedure, from start to finish.
A Field Divided
Surgeons who perform overlapping surgeries (and the hospitals that allow them) vehemently defend to their decision to do so. They claim they are more than capable of doling out their skills and expertise to more than one patient at a time, and they stand by their belief that, when complications arise, the outcome would have been the same, even if they would have stayed in the same operating room.
On the other side of the medical field are the surgeons who still abhor the idea of overlapping surgeries; they fear that patient safety is being put at risk for the sake of higher earnings, and they continually express their doubts that a surgeon can effectively share his skills with more than one patient at a time. Anesthetists—who are generally responsible for monitoring a patient's vital signs and condition to detect any sign of distress—often fall on this side of the matter as well.
So who is right?
One would assume that there would be extensive studies and tons of investigations to decide one way or the other, but these simply do not exist. Though a few have been done, overall, it is a highly misunderstood matter, for which there are few rules or governing regulations, and no real proven strategies regarding safety or efficiency.
Lawsuits for Double-Booked Surgeries Mounting
Across courtrooms in America, medical malpractice lawsuits for double-booked surgeries are mounting. Patients (or the loved ones of patients) are learning that they had not received the full attention of their surgeon long after the fact. They are (understandably) angry and hurt, and many of their lives have been irrevocably altered—some through death and others through permanent disability or injury.
Still, surgeons defend their position, claiming that double booking is not at fault for the deaths and injuries occurring in operating rooms today. But can they, beyond all reasonable doubt, ascertain that the complication would not have happened, had they only stayed within the four walls of one operating room? And of what use is such information to a patient or their loved ones if they feel they were deceived, tricked, or taken advantage of during their procedure?
At Hurley, McKenna & Mertz, we understand just how drastically a surgical mistake can impact innocent lives, and we fight aggressively to unveil the truth. If you suspect that you or a loved one have been the victim of medical malpractice, we invite you to contact our offices for a free consultation with a skilled Chicago medical malpractice attorney. Call us at [[phone]] today.