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Doctors and hospitals resist recording surgeries

Patient advocates in Arizona might some day request that hospitals and surgery centers give people the option to record their surgeries with audiovisual equipment. Lawmakers in two other states have introduced bills promoting this idea in order to support patient safety and provide evidence in malpractice cases.

Activists for better patient safety have proposed audiovisual recording. Two specific incidents have spurred the movement. Both involved anesthesia errors that resulted in the deaths of two women. One woman was 38 years old when she died during her breast-implant surgery. Cardiac and respiratory arrest ended the life of the other surgical error victim, who was only 19.

The concept of recording surgeries began with the desire to copy the black boxes in airplane cockpits that record pilot actions and provide feedback after accidents. University researchers developed a prototype that tracked surgeon's actions and recorded mistakes. This data was then supposed to be studied in order to improve performance and reduce future medical errors. Doctors and hospitals, however, resist both recording approaches because the information collected could be used as evidence in malpractice claims.

Although surgical recording technology offers the hope of improved outcomes and fewer errors, legal experts expect the data to also define the future of medical negligence claims when surgeries injure or kill patients. Even without audiovisual evidence, a victim of surgical error can still consult with an attorney about a lawsuit. An attorney familiar with medical cases could evaluate the evidence for signs of negligence. If necessary, an attorney might also arrange for an expert to give testimony regarding the medical records. Another insight the injured person might gain from an attorney is how to estimate the damages to be sought.

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