If you’ve ever been under general anesthesia, you know how unsettling it can be. You have no idea what’s happening while you’re out, and you wake up hours later feeling like only seconds have gone by. You are literally putting your life in someone else’s hands. Now imagine that while you’re under anesthesia, your trusted surgeon sends someone in his place to operate on you. Someone you have never met or consulted with; someone with less experience.
This didn’t just happen one time to some unfortunate patient somewhere. It happens often enough to have a name: ghost surgery. It’s where the doctor you have chosen or accepted as your surgeon passes the job off on someone else without asking or even informing you. According to a recent news article, some in the medical profession stand behind this practice and say it only happens in emergencies and in cases where the patient is informed and consents. But the article tells stories of others who only found out because they looked into it.
I’m sure many patients never find out what went on while they were knocked out. If the surgery goes well and the recovery is typical, there is no reason to question procedures or look back at operating room records. But if the surgery isn’t successful or there are major complications, a patient might start looking into their records and charts to find out what went wrong. Or their attorney is looking through these in anticipation of a medical malpractice lawsuit. These tend to be the ghost surgeries that come to light.
It’s important to point out that ghost surgeries aren’t automatically medical malpractice cases. Medical malpractice lawsuits almost always involve serious injury. The fact that your surgeon subbed out is not enough, although it’s certainly a reason to be outraged. It’s one of those situations where I wish I could tell people they could go to court and be heard. But injury lawsuits require an injury. The purpose is to seek compensation for your loss caused by your injury (medical bills, time off work, etc.). Pain and suffering are also available in medical malpractice cases, but you generally can’t base a lawsuit entirely on emotional pain and suffering.
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