Ethics Lesson: Don’t Multitask in Court

Today’s ethics lesson is not brought to us by a lawyer, but from a doctor in Sacramento who decided to make his traffic court zoom appearance during surgery.  The plastic surgeon apparently had been doubled booked and felt confident that he could competently perform the surgery whilst making his court appearance.

The clerk, noticed that something seemed “off” and asked the doctor, “It kind of looks like you’re in an operating room right now?”  To which the doctor confirmed, “Yes, I’m in an operating room right now.  I’m available for trial.  Go right ahead.”  At which point the doctor continued to perform the surgery.  Due to the legal requirement that traffic court trials be open to the public, I’m sure the patient would be pleased to know that his surgery/ this appearance was livestreamed on YouTube (can you say HIPAA violation?!).

The commissioner was unimpressed, noting for the record that “I’m seeing a defendant that’s in the middle of an operating room appearing to be actively engaged in providing services to a patient.”  He further added that “I do not feel comfortable for the welfare of the patient if you’re in the process of operating that I would put on a trial . . .”  While the doctor assured the commissioner that there was a second surgeon there to help, the commissioner decided to be the voice of reason and rescheduled the hearing for another date.

The Medical Board of California has decided to investigate the incident, issuing a statement that it “expects physicians to follow the standard of care when treating their patients.”

Needless to say, with the rise of technology we are capable of performing our work even more efficiently than ever before.  However, do not let the allure of multitasking take away from the important tasks at hand.  As such, while this should seem obvious, let this serve as a reminder to not perform surgery during your court appearances.