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What is Simultaneous Surgery? Medical Malpractice Attorney Ernest Fronzuto Talks to CBS News

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Medical malpractice attorney and Fronzuto Law Group founder, Ernest Fronzuto, was recently called upon as a legal resource to discuss the strikingly common and potentially dangerous practice of simultaneous surgery.

CBS 2 New York reported on the issue of simultaneous, or concurrent surgery, which occurs when a surgeon is booked to perform two, or sometimes even more, surgeries at the same time. The practice of double-booking surgeries often occurs in teaching hospitals, as less experienced physicians are given the opportunity to participate in procedures, while their supervising doctors are able to operate on two patients at once. In fact, the U.S. Senate Finance Committee investigated this issue at 20 American teaching hospitals and discovered that 33 percent of surgeries were scheduled simultaneously.

Since the issue was thrust into the public spotlight, the American College of Surgeons released guidelines recommending that surgeons inform patients if they plan to perform two surgeries at once. Notably, the ACS distinguishes between the practices of “concurrent” versus “overlapping” surgeries. Overlapping surgeries can occur when an assisting doctor performs a less critical component of the procedure while the supervising surgeon moves on. Of course, what is “critical” is highly subjective in a medical situation. In fact, most patients would consider the entire procedure “critical” to their health.

Double-Booked Surgery and Informed Consent

When patients undergo any procedure, there are inherent risks and potential complications. As such, doctors and hospitals are required to obtain what is known as “informed consent” from the patient before they proceed. However, when a patient consents to a procedure, he or she can hardly anticipate that the surgeon may leave mid-surgery to handle yet another procedure, leaving the original patient in a different, possibly less competent doctor’s hands. Obviously, if the patient is under anesthesia, it is impossible for him or her to know if the surgeon has left to attend to another patient, leaving other doctors to handle the rest. This raises the question: how can you provide informed consent to undergo a procedure without all of the details about what may occur while you’re under the knife?

CBS asked Attorney Ernest Fronzuto for his insight regarding the issue of double-booking, as he is a highly respected medical malpractice attorney who practices in both New Jersey and New York. Mr. Fronzuto explained, “I think it’s part of a larger, system-wide problem. It’s no different than a doctor who would see four patients in an hour, but now is booking eight patients in an hour.” Mr. Fronzuto pointed to money as the fundamental driving factor in the simultaneous surgery problem, and the results can be devastating.

Consider a scenario in which a complication arises while the supervising doctor is involved in another procedure. Mr. Fronzuto went on to say, “Now you have another patient, who’s now literally left with a resident or fellow who they’ve never met and otherwise would have never given informed consent.” During surgeries, moments can often spell the difference between life and death. How can a doctor anticipate and prevent catastrophic consequences if he or she isn’t even in the operating room? The answer is simple: they can’t.

Ultimately, the practice of simultaneous surgery subjugates patient safety to financial factors, sacrificing the best interests of the patient and possibly, risking their life. For innocent victims, the price is simply too high.

To read the CBS 2 article in its entirety, access the following link: Seen At 11: ‘Simultaneous Surgery’ — What’s Really Going On, When You Go Under?

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