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Facebook use may have led to surgical errors, death

An anesthesiologist who is a defendant in a current medical malpractice case is being accused of "distracted doctoring" to the point of failing to notice a patient's worsening condition during surgery. According to the allegations and some initial testimony provided in depositions, the doctor has posted to Facebook, sent texts, and checked emails in the past while in the operating room.

In this case, the patient checked into the hospital for a routine heart procedure and was pronounced dead ten hours after the surgery started. What went wrong in the operating room is still unclear, although some initial allegations suggest that the anesthesiologist failed to notice the patient's low blood-oxygen levels for between 15 and 20 minutes and that the patient may have suffered from severe injuries that led to her death as a result.

The testimony provided so far in the case is only in the form of depositions and the full process of discovery on what went on that day is not yet finished. However, some initial findings about the anesthesiologist's typical operating room conduct raise some troubling questions about why this patient died and what could have been done to prevent it.

For example, lawyers representing the family of the victim found at least one Facebook post that was clearly created inside an operating room. The post shows a photo of a patient's vital signs monitor, where the data is visible, with a joke caption about watching TV. If the anesthesiologist in this case was distracted by social networking sites or other personal matters during the time that the patient was suffering from fatal injuries, it is likely that doctor will be found liable for medical malpractice.

Source: Dallas Observer, "A Dallas Anesthesiologist Admits He Texted, Used Facebook During a Deadly Surgery," Eric Nicholson, April 1, 2014

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