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Double-booked surgeries more common than many people realize

This article looks at the practice of double-booking surgeries and why it puts patients at risk.

When most people are booked for a surgery they expect that their surgeon will be entirely focused on their procedure and their procedure alone. However, many patients are surprised to find out that surgeons are often booked for two surgeries at once. The practice of double-booked surgeries has come in for a lot of criticism recently, with critics saying it places patients at risk and removes their ability to give informed consent. While new guidelines on double-booking have been released, those guidelines have also been subject to criticism.

Double-booking surgeries

Double-booking surgeries is not uncommon. As CBS News reports, the Senate Finance Committee has found that of the 20 teaching hospitals it surveyed 33 percent of surgeries at those hospitals were double-booked. Furthermore, individual surgeons reported having up to 46 percent of their surgeries double-booked.

The issue has garnered more media attention in recent years after former Chicago White Sox pitcher Bobby Jenks suffered a botched surgery in 2015 that ended his career. That surgery had been double-booked, something that he claims he was not made aware of beforehand and which ultimately led to his surgeon trying to be in two different operating rooms at once. He has since sued the Massachusetts General Hospital where the procedure took place.

New guidelines don’t go far enough

As U.S. News & World Report points out, criticism of the practice of double-booking surgeries led the American College of Surgeons to put forth new guidelines in April 2016. Those guidelines don’t end the practice of double-booking, but they do say that doctors should inform patients if their procedure is double-booked. The guidelines also say that critical components of double-booked surgeries should not overlap.

Those guidelines, however, have themselves come in for criticism. For one, the guidelines are not legally binding, meaning there is little punishment for surgeons who don’t follow them. Critics also complain that surgeons often use euphemisms when telling patients their procedure has been overbooked and that many patients remain unaware that their surgeon will be performing two surgeries at once. Furthermore, the guidelines leave it to the surgeons themselves to determine what constitutes a “critical” component of the procedure. That fact means there is little oversight that would actually improve the safety of double-booked surgeries.

Medical malpractice law

Patients should feel safe and protected when they go in for surgery or any other medical procedure. As the above article shows, however, some patients are put in situations without their consent that could jeopardize their safety. Anybody who has suffered an illness or injury due to a potential medical error should contact a medical malpractice attorney immediately. An experienced attorney can help clients understand what their legal options are including possibly pursuing compensation for their ordeal.