Recorded Surgeries May Be Future of Medical Malpractice Lawsuits

August 25, 2015

Medical malpractice litigation frequently requires doctors acting as experts to opine about what happened in the operating room based on the notes of the surgical staff and subsequent treatment by physicians. However, laws under consideration by the legislature of Wisconsin and possibly New York would allow patients to have their surgeries recorded. When things go wrong, this could make it easier for medical malpractice attorneys to prove that the medical team was negligent in their patient care.

The Wisconsin bill is inspired by the story of Julie Ayer Rubenzer, who was given an overdose of propofol (anesthesia) during a surgical procedure in 2003. There have also been discussions about a proposed New York bill known as Raina’s Law, inspired by Raina Ferraro, but it is unclear at this point in time whether it has indeed been introduced into the legislature as there is little information about it on the internet.

The benefits and problems with having video cameras in surgeries have been debated for several years now. Studies have indicated that cameras at washing stations increase hand washing and gastroenterologists spend more time inspecting the colon when colonoscopies are recorded.

A team of researchers in Canada are working on what has been deemed a surgical “black box” which can record movements in the operating room and help identify mistakes which are happening. Media reports published last year indicated it wasn’t far from reality.

The topic has come to light again recently when a man undergoing a colonoscopy accidentally recorded the medical team’s disparaging comments on his phone while he was under anesthesia. The jury returned a verdict of $500,000 in his lawsuit.

But medical negligence is the third leading cause of death in the United States, according to the Journal of the American Medical Association. A study in the Journal of Patient Safety said that between 210,000 and 440,000 patients while under hospital care suffer preventable harm every year that contributes to their death. Only heart disease and cancer are higher than medical errors. The American Hospital Association puts the numbers lower, around 98,000 a year.

There’s been no proposal by lawmakers in Pennsylvania yet. However, as the technology becomes available, we expect that more patients will ask for it and more states will look into implementing it. The tremendous cost of this problem to society demands it to hold those who commit malpractice accountable.