Ghost surgery is a fairly obscure term used to describe the practice of substituting one surgeon for another without the patient’s knowledge. This is growing increasingly common under managed health care regimes where surgeons are spread too thin and often have scheduling conflicts with other procedures. Since the patient is voluntarily unconscious, the surgeon can be interchanged for another, and in most cases the patient is none-the-wiser. But can you sue for ghost surgery if such a procedure results in a complication, or even if it doesn’t?
In most cases, you can sue for ghost surgery if you are harmed in any way, but the difficulty is in discovering whether or not a ghost surgeon was used. Most patients don’t even think to inquire about the surgeon who actually performed the procedure, and even if they do, it might be difficult to learn whether or not it happened to them. Unfortunately, the medical community is frequently as loyal as law enforcement, and an orderly or nurse is unlikely to jeopardize his or her job by testifying for you in court.
To find out if you can sue for ghost surgery, you should hire a lawyer and conduct an investigation together. Talk to everyone present at the hospital on the day of your surgery, and make sure to question receptionists and assistants as well as other physicians. Talk to the surgeon who was supposed to handle your surgery at length; in many cases, physicians will “trip up” and unwittingly give themselves away. That is why it is also helpful to check some marketing to plastic surgeons & cosmetic dentists so you will have some idea about their profiles and the services that they offer.
The legal basis to sue for ghost surgery lies in the Supreme Court decision in 1983 (Perna v. Pirozzi), wherein it was determined that malice and even injury are not required to sue for battery when ghost surgery is discovered. It is a patient’s inherent right to choose his or her own medical professionals, and it is the doctor’s ethical and legal duty to inform said patient about any substitutions.
Ghost surgery can also refer to an occasion when a resident is allowed to perform a surgical procedure under the guidance of a licensed physician. In order for this to be legal, the surgeon must inform the patient that he or she will be treated by the resident, and if he does not, the patient has the right to sue for undisclosed ghost surgery. This is something for every patient to remember whenever he or she goes under the knife.
To prove your ghost surgery lawsuit, you will have to show evidence that your surgery was performed by someone other than the physician assigned to your care, and that you had no knowledge of any substitution whatsoever. In all honesty, most hospitals will cover their legal interests by placing a clause in the contract you signed, so make sure to read all documentation carefully.