Patients who suspect malpractice after they’ve had an unforeseen injury from a surgical procedure quickly learn that the operating room works on a basic “honor system” for reporting errors. If something goes wrong, the surgeon is required to describe the event in his or her dictated report of the operation. Of course, that lets the surgeon control what gets put on paper.
Now there is a budding movement to have cameras in operating rooms record what happens and save the recordings for possible use later — both to educate professionals and as potential legal evidence.
The Washington Post has an article describing a bill introduced in the Wisconsin legislature to require such recordings. The man behind the move is the brother of a patient who died from too much propofol, the same anesthetic drug that killed Michael Jackson.
Reporter Tom Jackman’s article quotes a Toronto surgeon who has invented a device that synchronizes the vital signs recordings of a patient’s pulse etc. with video and audio recordings of what is going on in the OR. Teodor P. Grantcharov, a professor of surgery at the University of Toronto, told the Post:
If we don’t know what we’re doing wrong, we’ll never improve. This is what many other high-performance industries have been using for decades.
Lawyers for the medical industry complain that such recordings would “invade the privacy” of surgeons, nurses and others in the OR. But if it could educate surgeons on how to avoid errors and save lives, that seems like a minor quibble that could be worked around. Other practical issues also need to be addressed. But many surgical procedures are already video-recorded, because they are done with tiny cameras inside the body in so-called “minimally invasive” techniques.
So why not just save the recording?