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Surgeon malpractice suit: Hospital knew about imparied surgeon

Finance is inextricably tied with health care. Like other businesses, hospitals cannot operate without a steady flow of funds for medical services the facilities' employees provide. Physicians may be under intense pressure to maintain hospital profitability.

Boston hospital patients may not think about how financial pressures influence the quality of care they receive. The hospital-physician and employer-employee connection can become clear in surgical error lawsuits.

A federal lawsuit recently filed against two South Central health care providers claimed the defendants protected a neurosurgeon with a significant substance abuse problem. The physician allegedly botched so many surgeries that some colleagues refused to work with him.

The surgeon was employed at a Baylor Health Care System hospital, where the plaintiff said he was the victim of a wrong-site surgery in 2011. The lawsuit states the 68-year-old plaintiff was not the only patient who were injured, paralyzed or died at the hands of the incompetent doctor.

The neurosurgeon, now suspended from practice, was not named as a defendant.

Other surgeons who worked with the doctor called him "dangerous." Patients under the doctor's care suffered avoidable surgical outcomes like excessive blood loss, permanent disability and, in some cases, death. The surgeon allegedly performed operations after abusing cocaine, prescription drugs and alcohol often kept in his office.

The physician's substance abuse problem reportedly was evident, even before he was hired at the Baylor hospital. The patient's claim said Baylor hospital knew about, but did not report, the mistreatment of patients and even promoted the surgeon's services.

Baylor finally requested the surgeon's resignation in 2012, but agreed to recommend him to another employer. The neurosurgeon continued to practice at a different hospital where patients were maimed or killed.

Defendants in medical malpractice claims are not confined to health care professionals. Hospitals may be held liable for surgeons' behavior, when doctors are acting on behalf of employers.

Source: Courthouse News Service, "Patient Calls Stoned Surgeon a Menace" David Lee, Jan. 28, 2014

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