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Medical Practice

Your Surgeon May Also Be Operating On Someone Else

The Room at Massachusetts General Hospital where first operation with ether was performed.
Boston Public Library

Across the country teaching hospitals fill a dual mandate, to serve patients and train new doctors. When a patient goes under the knife most assume their surgeon - and not just a trainee - is there in the room with them. Yet in at least one teaching hospital surgeons perform complex overlapping procedures, without the patient's consent, or knowledge, leaving portions of the procedure to a resident. The Boston Globe's Spotlight Team obtained thousands of documents detailing an internal battle over the safety of double-booking surgeries that went on for years, pitting a star surgeon against Massachusetts General Hospital. 

“The fact that surgeons are allowed to run two rooms simultaneously is known by physicians, administrators, compliance officers, booking clerks, nurses, residents, and others,” Burke wrote in March 2012 to Dr. Keith Lillemoe, head of surgery at MGH, in an e-mail obtained by the Globe. “The only person seemingly unaware of this practice is the patient.’’

Clash in the name of care - A Boston Globe Spotlight Team Report