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Patient dies, anesthesiologist accused of 'distracted doctoring'

Most people here in Arizona know that there is risk in every surgery. But we are often comforted when a doctor tells us that it’s a routine procedure. That’s why, when something goes wrong during the surgery, we often feel betrayed and question whether this loss has turned into a case of medical malpractice.

A tragic story out of Texas this month is doing just that after a 61-year-old woman died during a routine operation. According to the attending physician, the woman was undergoing a very common type of heart surgery. She was likely even expected to make a full recovery. But during the procedure, something went wrong and she was pronounced dead. So what went wrong? Had an error been made? Was hospital negligence to blame for the elderly woman’s death?

After hearing depositions from the surgeon and attending anesthesiologist, the victim’s family believes that this may have been the case. According to the surgeon, at some point during the procedure he noticed that the anesthesiologist was looking down at a piece of handheld technology. When asked if he thought that the anesthesiologist was paying attention to the patient, the surgeon said no. Later, when the anesthesiologist was asked about his technology use during the patient’s surgery, he not only confirmed that he had been using a personal electronic device but that he occasionally did activities that otherwise took his full attention away from patients for short periods of time.

The victim’s family and attorney believe that this is a perfect example of “distracted doctoring,” in which mistakes are made because medical staff is distracted by something other than their patient’s needs. For this reason, the victim’s family is seeking damages in a medical malpractice lawsuit. Although it will not bring back their lost loved one, it may at least give them some closure and discourage such behavior from happening again in the future.

Source: The Dallas Observer, “Dallas Anesthesiologist Being Sued Over Deadly Surgery Admits to Texting, Reading iPad During Procedures,” Eric Nicholson, April 1, 2014

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