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When going to your doctor's office to do a normal everyday surgery procedure, have you ever had the thought while under anesthesia something may not go as planned? Would you ever think that another physician would perform your surgery? Would you ever think your physician would betray you after you have been a faithful patient for years? Well these questions refer to something known as “Ghost Surgery”. Ghost surgery is defined as: The practice of performing surgery on another physician's patient by arrangement with the physician but unknown to the patient.
However, ghost surgery has been around for decades, but is something that is hard for a patient to prove. While under anesthesia the patient has no idea who is performing the surgery to them. As the patient gets prepared for surgery all they know is the doctor that they discussed the procedure with, and the surrounding the nurses. The patient goes into surgery feeling very confident that everything will be okay, assuming there attending physician will perform the surgery. The anesthesiologist comes to give you your knock out medicine, you count to ten get a glance at everyone in the operating room, and before you know it your asleep. What seems like moments later your surgery is complete, you wake up in your bed in the recovery section. Just knowing that you woke you thinking everything went well after talking to your nurse.
As you begin to wake more you ask your nurse about how your surgery went and what to expect next. Your nurse says “the knee replacement with Dr. Knewls went very well, you can expect some drainage from your knee, just as well as we are going to place your leg on a mobilizer per Dr knewls to give it movement so it's not so stiff”. You stop the nurse and raise question about who is Dr knewls, you tell the attending nurse that your attending physician is Dr. Jones. The nurse stops her face turns red, and she walks out of your saying she will be right back. You lay in your bed, with many questions running through your head. You can't decide whether you want to push your call button, or wait for her to come back in. You pick up the phone call your mother and explain to her that another doctor performed your surgery without your consent.
Your nurse comes back to your room, she is very apologetic. You still raise question about who this Dr. Knewls is. You begin to go into depth with the nurse and explain to her your attending physician is Dr. Jones who you authorized to perform your surgery. Your nurse begins to say, sometimes your attending physician might have to be called out, and they bring in a different physician that can perform the same job. The nurse not realizing what she had just said raised more questions with the patient. The nurse just realized that she made a mistake in telling the patient that information, not knowing the patient had already consulted with someone about what had just happened. The patient starts threatening and yelling at the nurse demanding that she talks to the charge nurse, and who to call to make a chief complaint, and possibly sue the hospital and physician. The nurse walks out the room in shock and in disbelief of what conversation she just had the patient. The charge nurse walks in the room you as her questions about the detailing information the nurse just told you. She apologizes and explains there is not much she can do for you; you would have to take such action elsewhere. Dr. Jones comes to your room, explains that your surgery went very well and your estimated healing time would be 3 months. You politely ask Dr. Jones who is Dr. Knewls? He replies one of my partners. You begin to tell Dr. Jones that you don't appreciate him walking out on your surgery and having his partner take over, when you have been a loyal patient of his for several years. You begin to inform Dr. Jones that you are aware of something called “ghost surgery” and ask are you? His face turns red and begins to apologize historically to you. You tell him to sign your discharge papers and you forcefully tell him I will see you in court.
As explained before “Ghost Surgery” is something that is hard to prove without acknowledgement from either your nurse or doctor, or information provided on your patient progress notes. This patient in this scenario has a sueable case in which she didn't allow Dr. Knewls to perform any type of operation on her. However, Dr. Jones says he was a qualified physician, but not authorized to perform surgery. The patient in this case has all cause to sue the hospital and physicians office. The patient also has documentation her medical records that the nurse read of stating where Dr knewls signed, and wrote in chart. The patient may also use the nurse that gave info as a witness, but in most cases hospital staff will refuse to testify in any cases afraid of losing their job. However, this scenario is fiction, but “Ghost Surgery' does exist. To prevent this from happening to you or others be sure to always ask questions, and get detailed information before you go under anesthesia, and understand everything that the hospital and your physician is planning on doing.
The probable cause to sue comes from that the patient may suffer from mental anguish resulting from the belated knowledge that the operation was performed by a doctor to whom the patient had not given consent. However, the patient's rights were also invaded punitive damages may be assessed in appropriate cases when necessary. Most cases also go through a jury trial to decide whether the patient has cause to make such accusation and show proof of complaint. Once a decision has been made after the trial the patient has every right to stop practice with the attending physician. All monies owed to the patient if they have a winning case must be paid in full. Physician may also be asked to stop such practice they were running. As an end result always be cautious as the patient and physician always perform your duties in a correct manner to avoid such cases.