Surgeons hold patients’ lives in their hands. When performing operations, surgeons must be rested and sober.
Unfortunately, some surgeons operate on patients while under the influence of drugs, alcohol, or both. This might be a more common problem than many realize.
Virtually every year, cases of surgeons getting in trouble for operating on patients while intoxicated are reported. It’s likely there are also many more instances of surgeons getting away with operating after having too much to drink or using intoxicating drugs.
This is a problem which persists in part because safeguards against it might not be as thorough as they should. For example, in various states, drug and alcohol testing requirements for surgeons and other medical professionals are somewhat limited.
Informal “social experiments” also indicate that our natural trust of and reverence for medical professionals might stop the average person from intervening when it appears that a surgeon is going to perform surgery when they are too drunk to do so safely.
In 2010, a team of reporters designed a simple experiment in which actors posed as surgeons at a restaurant during lunchtime. They openly discussed the fact that they were “on call” so that others dining nearby would assume they were real surgeons.
They also openly consumed large amounts of alcohol. Then, they pretended that they were being called in to operate on patients. Although others at the restaurant later admitted they were horrified to witness what they assumed to be surgeons rushing out to perform operations after having several drinks, none of them chose to take action.
If the average person won’t prevent a surgeon from performing an operation when they’re drunk, perhaps those working under surgeons are also reluctant to question whether they’re capable of performing surgery. even if they show signs of being intoxicated. Although it’s impossible to determine with any certainty the degree to which this factor contributes to patients being harmed at the hands of intoxicated surgeons and doctors, there’s reason to believe members of a surgeon’s team are reluctant to question a surgeon’s authority when they insist they are sober enough to treat a patient.
It’s easy to understand why performing surgery while intoxicated is very dangerous and irresponsible. Alcohol can impact a surgeon’s judgment, memory, cognition, and motor skills.
A surgeon who performs an operation while intoxicated may kill a patient. If they don’t, they could still cause a patient to sustain major injuries. Or, they might perform a surgery inadequately, preventing a patient from receiving the treatment they need.
Hopefully, this will never happen to your or a loved one. If you have the opportunity to, you might even wish to look into the reputation of a surgeon before consenting to an operation to learn if they are known to be a heavy drinker or drug user.
That said, if you have been harmed because a surgeon was drunk, you deserve to receive financial compensation accordingly. A Honolulu medical malpractice attorney at Kurzban, Kurzban, Tetzeli, and Pratt, P.A. can help you pursue what you may be owed. Learn more by contacting our firm online or calling us at 866-377-3676.