It is stressful enough for a parent when a child requires surgery without having to wonder whether or not the operating surgeon is competent and qualified. The New York Department of Health charged a pediatric surgeon at a children’s hospital last year with incompetence, gross malpractice and other forms of professional misconduct in the cases of five patients who received treatment between 2010 and 2012. The charges resulted in a settlement that allows the surgeon to continue to treat patients while on probation for two years, during which another surgeon must review her records and visit her practice. Because of the settlement, no disciplinary hearing took place in regard to the five cases.
Although information about disciplinary action against New York physicians is available online, the hospital has no legal obligation to inform patients that a doctor is on probation before they receive treatment. It can also be difficult for patients and family members attempting to do due diligence by conducting research on the physician beforehand to find the information on disciplinary actions unless they already know where to look. While the information is available online, it is not always easy to find.
The surgeon’s responsibilities at the children’s hospital include not only treating patients but also supervising surgical trainees. At least one of these trainees expressed concerns to administrators about the outcomes of the surgeon’s in or around 2012. A one-time attorney for the hospital, who also has experience as a nurse practitioner, described the incidents as errors in judgment as well as of technical expertise. The surgeon’s alleged errors include unnecessarily removing an adolescent’s gallbladder, failing to document performing a procedure on an infant and attempting to perform the same operation twice as a result and allowing a surgical clip onto the airway of a premature baby during a procedure she was overseeing.
A review of public records shows that there have been no malpractice suits against the surgeon during her time at the institution. The surgeon has either denied the charges against her or agreed not to contest them. At the end of this month, she will have completed one year of probation and will be eligible to apply for early release. Parents concerned that a doctor may have committed a surgical error during a child’s procedure may wish to consult an attorney.