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New instance of 'distracted doctoring' ends in license suspension

Unless you’re driving, most people never consider whether their text messaging habits will result in serious or fatal injury to someone else. But when that texting is being performed by a doctor during surgery on a patient, that sentiment can change in a heartbeat. Suddenly, that behavior has compromised patient safety, which can eventually lead to claims of medical negligence and even litigation.

It’s a topic some of our more frequent readers may remember us touching on in an April 8 post about 'distracted doctoring.' In that post, we told you about the case of a 61-year-old woman who died from complications during surgery. As you may remember, her death may have occurred because the anesthesiologist was distracted by a handheld electronic device instead of monitoring her vital signs. Her case, as tragic as it was, now stands as an example of what can happen when a medical professional is negligent on the job.

But a new case of ‘distracted doctoring’ out of Washington state may suggest to some of our Arizona readers that this could be a growing problem that could affect the entire United States if action is not taken.

Some of you may have already heard about the 47-year-old anesthesiologist whose license was suspended recently after medical authorities learned that he may have “compromised patient safety” during surgical operations. The anesthesiologist is accused of sending sexual innuendo-filled text messages to his girlfriend during surgery as well as sending lewd images over the phone.

If there is anything that we learned from the case of the 61-year-old woman it’s that behavior such as this can have deadly consequences. Although reports do not indicate whether the 47-year-old anesthesiologist’s actions resulted in serious or fatal injuries to any patients, it’s important to point out that his actions could still be considered negligent and would be grounds for civil litigation in the event that it had resulted in injury or death. And though these incidences did not happen here in Arizona, if a similar incident were to occur here, residents could argue the same thing in their own civil claims.

Source: The Washington Post, “This might be a first: A Seattle doctor is suspended for sexting during surgery,” Lindsey Bever, June 10, 2014

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