Medical Negligence In “Simultaneous Surgeries”: Here in Massachusetts

I’ve written in this blog extensively on the subject of medical negligence.  Some people have a hard time believing that medical negligence (medical malpractice) is really all that prevalent.  But it is – far more than the average person knows.    Approximtely 400,00- people die of medical negligence every year in the united States.  That fact comes from recently published study in the Journal of Patient Safety and was conducted to update decades-old data that consistently stated that fewer than 100,000 Americans die each year due to medical errors.  While doctors, hospitals and medical professionals have always quoted that figure, there was just one, huge problem with it:  It was based on data over 30 years old – from 1984.  The present-day reality:  Over 400,000, each year.

While frightening, this fact doesn’t make doctors or nurses “evil” – it makes them human.  But these errors DO occur, and they DO cause the victims of these medical errors terrible consequences.  As a Boston medical negligence lawyer, I’ve seen these realities first-hand, and I know the damage and heartache they can cause.  The the laws of Massachusetts provide redress against these events, and I’m proud to represent the families and individuals that I do, who have suffered the consequences of medical malpractice.

And perhaps the most shocking part of this fact?   A great deal of medical negligence doesn’t occur at 2nd or 3rd rate hospitals or medical facilities.   It often occurs at world-renowned medical institutions.  It occurs at the hands of doctors, specialists and nurses that have esteemed backgrounds; who are affiliated with some of the most revered medical schools and research institutions in the United States. In my practice as a Massachusetts medical malpractice attorney, I’ve found that 95% of people who discuss this topic with me, are completely uninformed as to the everyday realities surrounding this problem.  They’re shocked when they learn it.

Recently, the Boston Globe’s Spotlight Team broke a story that I consider to be almost the medical equivalent of the Boston clergy sex abuse scandal that the Globe broke over a dozen years ago.  The Globe’s Spotlight Team, for readers who may not know, is the legendary special investigations unit that has exposed some of the biggest scandals of this region – in politics, the church & clergy, law, business, academia and, yes, medicine.  As someone who leans conservative politically, I don’t agree with a lot of what the Globe has to say about a lot of important public policy issues, but I can’t dispute the expertise and efficacy of their Spotlight team.  I’ve been watching them since I was a high school kid, and they are good at what they do.

Exhibit “A” as to the Spotlight’s latest expose, has been the largely unknown practice of a certain hospital engaging in the regular practice of scheduling “simultaneous surgeries”:  Shockingly, these are multiple surgical operations performed by the same surgeon, in different operating rooms, at the same time.  Yes, you heard that right:  One doctor, operating on two separate patients in two separate operating rooms, shuttling back and forth between patients.  So much for the perception most people have of doctors over an operating table, focusing intently on their patient as the sweat soaks their face masks.  I don’t mean to sound sarcastic – I’m sure that scenario indeed plays out every day:  The vast majority of doctors are dedicated professionals.

But occasionally, either personal problems, professional mistakes, or hospital budget cuts get in the way – and innocent patients suffer in the process.  I’ll detail the tragic example of how that happened here in Massachusetts – and exactly where – in Part Two of my post on this subject, in a few days.

Stay tuned.  Because guess what?  If you’re fortunate enough to have never ended up in a hospital, you’re almost certain to at some point down the road.  And the more you know, the safer you’ll be.