“Ghost surgery” occurs when a surgeon performs surgery on another surgeon’s patient, and the surgeons are aware of the arrangement but the patient is not. Often, the surgeons don’t agree to “switch” until after the patient has already been sedated or anesthetized for the surgery itself.
There are legitimate reasons for surgeons to switch places. For instance, one surgeon may have a sudden emergency, or a resident may perform or assist with surgery under the close supervision of an experienced physician. Typically, patients are alerted to these possibilities beforehand and asked for their consent. When consent is not sought, however, the process becomes more questionable.
Even when everything goes well, ghost surgery can be distressing for patients who discover it after the fact. Many patients do a great deal of research before their surgery. They work hard to gather information about surgeons and compare details, so they can feel confident that the person who will be working on their body is the person they trust most.
In addition, for many surgeries, patients speak to the surgeon beforehand. They ask questions and alert their surgeon to particular medical needs they have. A relationship of trust begins to develop between the patient and the chosen surgeon. When that surgeon steps out at the last minute, the betrayal and sense of violation the patient experiences are very real.
When something does go wrong, a ghost surgery can complicate the process of determining what happened and holding the right people accountable. Occurrences of ghost surgeries are not tracked in the United States, making it even more difficult to know what happened or how often such surgeries occur. In some U.S. jurisdictions, “ghost” surgeons may be held liable for battery even if no malpractice occurred.
If you’ve been injured during medical care and you suspect medical malpractice is to blame, don’t hesitate to contact an experienced New Jersey medical malpractice lawyer. Your lawyer can investigate to determine if ghost surgery or another questionable practice occurred, and fight for the compensation you deserve.