Massachusetts Hospitals Allowing “Simultaneous Surgeries”: Wise Practice, or Foolish? Part Two of Two

In my previous post on this subject, I wrote of how The Boston Globe’s Spotlight Team recently ran a Spotlight Investigation into the practice of surgeons conducting “simultaneous surgeries: at the esteemed Massachusetts General Hospital.  This practice involves a surgeon or surgeons ‘shuttling’ back and forth between separate operating rooms, operating on separate patients, for with entirely separate O.R. teams.  Sound crazy?  Well, MGH officials claim that it’s s ‘sound’ and ‘safe practice, which saves time and money, without elevating the risk of harm to their patients.

Don’t tell that to a patient by the name of Tony Meng.  As the Globe’s Spotlight Team recently reported, Mr. Meng was examined at MGH for neck pain, combined with tingling in his arms and fingers. An MRI revealed a condition that was creating compression of his spinal cord.

Resultantly, Dr. Kirkham Wood at MGH performed an extensive, 11-hour operation on Mr. Meng in August 2012, to correct the compression of his spinal cord.    Mr. Meng was told that this was an operation that carried known risks, including possible paralysis, but also presented the hope for relief of his pain and other symptoms.

Dr. Wood first gained access to Mr. Meng’s spine through the front of his neck, removing parts of his vertebrae. At that point in the operation, Mr. Meng’s nerve signals began to fade. Seeking to hopefully relieve the nerve symptoms, the surgeon then operated for several more hours on his vertebrae, this time going through the back of Meng’s neck.

Meng later awoke from the surgery, finding that he could not move his arms or legs. What Meng had not been told of prior to consenting to this surgery, and what he did not learn about until  long after the surgery, was that Dr. Wood had a second spinal surgery operation going on, at the same time as his, in another operating room. Can you imagine learning this, after having been paralyzed because of this surgery?  Meng felt betrayed.  Dr. Wood said that he had handled all the critical parts of Meng’s surgery, and MGH itself has issued a statement that the doctor “acted appropriately” in conducting the simultaneous surgeries, and “within the accepted standard of care.”

Accidents happen, you say, right?  Not exactly.  As a medical consumer today ,you simply cannot accept as “gospel,” what any health care provider tells you.  Just as you shouldn’t with any attorney.  I know many doctors, and respect them for their dedication and desire to heal.  But like any professionals, they can make mistakes.  I assure you, as a Boston medical errors lawyer, I’ve seen too many of them.  Be smart.  Ask a lot of questions.  Research not only your surgeon, but the hospital you will be operated in.  If you think you may be the victim of a doctor’s malpractice, seek the advice of an experienced Massachusetts medical malpractice attorney.  (And research that attorney, as well.)