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Does The Doctor Performing Your Surgery Have The Right Privileges At The Hospital?

by The Beasley Firm  |  December 27, 2011  |  

A general surgeon, his surgical practice group, and a major medical center recently agreed to a $17.5 million settlement arising from a patient’s terrible complications following a botched hernia surgery. In the course of the surgery, the doctor, who had only finished his residency nine months earlier, perforated the patient’s bowel, leading to abdominal infection, sepsis, septic shock, organ failure, heart attack, and blindness. The patient now can only walk with assistance, had parts of his hip and colon removed, and has to wear a colostomy bag.

The surgeon was allegedly negligent in using an improper technique during the surgery, perforating the patient’s bowel, failing to recognize the perforation, and failing to call for assistance to repair the tear immediately. But one of the more shocking issues was that the doctor performed the operation laparoscopically, even though he did not have privileges at the hospital to perform interventional laparoscopic surgery. In short, the hospital should never have let him perform the surgery in the first place.

“Privileges” are the medical industry term for the permissions granted by a hospital to a particular physician. Every year or two years, hospitals are supposed to review the qualifications and credentials of the physicians they employ or allow to practice at their hospitals, and to use the information they find in determining which procedures doctors can and cannot do. For many procedures, such as minor surgeries, privileges are routinely granted to any physician with a valid medical license. For more serious procedures, such as invasive procedures, or procedures with a large volume of potential blood loss or the need for general anesthesia, the hospital has to do a more thorough review of the physician’s background, training, and experience to determine if the physician is adequately qualified. For patient safety reasons, these privileges are never set in stone. Sometimes, a physician will have their privileges revoked, restricted or limited after negligently injuring a patient or following a negative peer review by other physicians.

Importantly, the hospital has a duty to ensure that every physician performing any surgical procedure in its operating rooms has sufficient privileges for the exact operation scheduled. If a hospital is following the appropriate standards of care, they will always double-check if a surgeon has appropriate privileges at the time the surgeon or their staff tries to schedule the procedure, and then the hospital will check again before the procedure is about to begin. It is shocking that a hospital in this day and age would allow a physician without adequate privileges to perform any operation at all, much less a highly invasive operation like interventional laparoscopic hernia repair, when there are a variety of computer programs and systems available to ensure that every physician has adequate privileges. We are not at all surprised that the hospital was successfully sued and that they agreed to a large settlement to help pay for the patient’s continuing medical care, because the hospital bore a large degree of responsibility for allowing the unqualified physician to perform the operation in the first place.

For over 60 years, the medical malpractice and hospital negligence lawyers at The Beasley Firm have set the standard for representation of patients seriously injured by physicians’ and hospitals’ preventable mistakes. Through our perseverance and dedication, our clients have been awarded over $2 billion in settlements and verdicts. If you or a loved one has been injured by complications during or after surgery, please contact our medical negligence team of lawyers, doctors, or nurses for a free, confidential consultation.

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