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Beyond malpractice: Doctors in real trouble

Beyond malpractice: Doctors in real trouble

What could be worse than being sued for malpractice? Prison. Kang Se-hoon, a surgeon in South Korea, operated on a popular rock singer and song writer in October 2014. According to reports, Shin Hae-chul had abdominal pain, and the surgeon performed laparoscopic lysis of adhesions. Without having obtained consent, he decided to also do a weight reduction procedure. The patient was discharged a few days after surgery but returned a day later with fever and severe abdominal pain. Kang did not investigate the cause of the pain and instead prescribed pain medication. Shin Hae-chul was eventually transferred to another hospital where he underwent an attempt at life-saving surgery. Ten days after the original surgery, he died of peritonitis, pericarditis, and sepsis. An autopsy revealed a perforation of the small intestine which had been leaking bowel contents and a hole in his pericardium which was inflamed. Evidence of a procedure to shrink the size of the stomach was also found. A lawsuit was filed by the family. Kang was found negligent and also guilty of manslaughter. He was ordered to pay the equivalent of $1.41 million in damages to the family and sentenced to 10 months in prison plus two years’ probation. Kang appealed the case, and in January 2018, the Seoul High Court not only upheld the verdict, it increased his prison term to 12 months. So much for the appeal. Exactly how many US doctors have faced prison time for malpractice is unknown, but it is still considered rare. Here’s a recent example. In September of 2017, a 71-year-old physician underwent a plastic surgery procedure at an outpatient...
Charges dropped against surgeon accused of assaulting nurse

Charges dropped against surgeon accused of assaulting nurse

Last month in this space, I wrote about “Things doctors should not do—like attacking their nurses” and included this story among others: “A surgeon at a Long Island, New York hospital, angry because a nurse gave one of his patients a dose of medicine at the wrong time, allegedly took a drawstring from his sweatshirt and wrapped it around her neck. As reported by Outpatient Surgery, the complaint says the surgeon, while choking her, told her he should kill her for what she did. He was arrested and charged with strangulation and assault.” I did not reveal the surgeon’s name in my post, but interested readers could have clicked on the link to the Outpatient Surgery article about him. After an investigation, the surgeon was cleared of all charges because surveillance video and witnesses did not substantiate the nurse’s accusation. When I learned of this, I inserted an update into the post, but the positive ending to the situation needs to have the same amount of exposure as the original negative story. As you might guess, the arrest received widespread coverage by various media outlets. Reporting it was legitimate news, but so was the dropping of charges. A few responsible websites, such as CBSlocal.com, newsday.com, and abc7ny.com, described the happy outcome in detail. Outpatient Surgery posted a brief notice that the charges had been dropped but in a less prominent area of its website than the first story. Three well-known websites had published lengthy articles about the alleged assault but made no mention of the surgeon’s later exoneration. That a reputable newspaper like the Chicago Tribune failed to do...
“Officials find NYC hospitals riddled with shocking violations.”

“Officials find NYC hospitals riddled with shocking violations.”

I know it’s only the New York Post, but that headline could not be more misleading: The article says that state health inspectors found “19 instances of safety or security lapses that put New York City hospital patients in ‘immediate jeopardy.’” The inspections took place from January 2015 through January 2018. Pop quiz. How many hospitals are in New York City? A. 28 B. 51 C. 73 D. 96 The five boroughs of New York City are home to 96 hospitals. I don’t know about you, but I would say 19 violations among 96 hospitals over a three-year period does not meet the definition of “riddled with.” To be sure, some of the violations were egregious and should never have happened. The Post article listed a few. Two patients died of cardiac arrest during minor surgery at two different facilities run by one hospital. The story implied that delays in the recognition of problems occurred and the surgeons were responsible. The role of anesthesia was not mentioned. Another hospital failed “to properly investigate the claims of two women who said they were sexually abused” by an emergency physician. The “immediate jeopardy declaration” was lifted after the hospital proved that its staff had been educated—exactly which staff and what the education was is unknown. We do know a fine of $2000 was imposed upon the hospital, which does not seem like much to me. A Bronx hospital was cited for discharging a patient after a two-day stay and telling him to go to a walk-in clinic. He had made two previous suicide attempts. Unfortunately, he took his own life. A...
Things medical personnel should not do

Things medical personnel should not do

Here are some tips from an experienced former provider—me. Nude Pictures… Do not take nude pictures of fellow employees. A woman unit secretary in the operating room of a hospital in Greene County, Pennsylvania said while she was anesthetized for an incisional hernia repair, an operating room nurse took photographs of her naked body and later showed them to several coworkers. The patient, known only as Jane Doe, has filed suit against the hospital, several of its employees, and the surgeon who operated on her because he did not report the nurse who took the pictures to hospital administration. According to the local newspaper, the OR nurse was fired after Ms. Doe reported the incident, but things did not go well for Ms. Doe either. After she returned to work, she was blamed for what happened and treated poorly by the staff. Someone wrote her a note that said, “What were you thinking?” and added an obscenity. She returned to work and suffered “migraines, anxiety, and insomnia.” After she took an unpaid leave recommended by her physician, the hospital terminated her. As is typical of lawsuits such as this [see my post of December 28, 2017], hyperbole must be used in order to fill up the 39 pages of the complaint. Despite no claim of a postoperative complication, Ms. Doe’s lawyer said she was at increased risk of infection because a cell phone, not necessarily one with more bacteria than a toilet seat, was taken into a sterile operating room. Murder… Do not [allegedly] murder a patient. An anesthesiologist was arrested and charged with murder in December because his...
The Burnout Paradox: Why Are We Still Surprised?

The Burnout Paradox: Why Are We Still Surprised?

If you go to medical school, you will be stressed—bigly. It should not come as a surprise. Two posts on the Kevin MD website highlight the problems facing many medical students today. The first was by an anonymous rising fourth year student who has come to the conclusion that going to medical school was “a terrible, terrible decision.” It ended with a comment that medical school “is not fun. It’s jarring, scary, disappointing and absolutely depressing.” The second was by another anonymous student who described how miserable he (or she) has been since he started medical school. He said “’burnout’ is the word I would use to best describe my medical school experience.” On the day he wrote his post, he was about to text the surgery residents to tell them he would not be there for the last day of his rotation because he was too anxious. He mentioned a strong family history of anxiety disorders and being diagnosed with depression and anxiety as he was applying to medical school. He did not disclose this during the application process. Burnout is not limited to a few students. A literature review in 2013 found “at least half of all medical students may be affected by burnout during their medical education.” Nor is the problem confined to medical students. A national survey published in Academic Medicine in 2014 found that 58.2% of medical students, 50.8% of residents/fellows, and 40% of early career physicians screened positive for depression. Last week, Medscape’s 2017 Lifestyle Report, a survey of practicing physicians, found that 51% were burned out—an increase from 40% in 2013. The...
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