Should Operating Rooms in Arizona Have Cameras?
By Zachary Mushkatel on February 18, 2016
Over the past several years, society has grown accustomed to having most of the words we say and movements we make on a daily basis recorded – often without our consent. Certain situations, however, demand that we enjoy a high level of privacy.
One example of such a situation is when we are undergoing sensitive or invasive medical procedures. Few of us would want to be recorded while naked (or semi-naked) and in an unconscious state while being operated on by surgeons.
Yet, according to The Washington Post, some states are in the midst of passing bills that would allow what goes on inside an operating room to be recorded for future use in medical malpractice cases.
Is this a positive development that will improve patient safety and surgeon accountability or is it a move that will drive up medical costs and infringe on patients’ right to privacy without any clear benefits?
As The Washington Post reports, proponents of operating room cameras claim that the cameras can increase patient safety and prove beneficial when it comes to holding negligent medical professionals accountable in a medical malpractice claim.
How Surgery Footage Could Impact a Medical Malpractice Case
In a typical Arizona medical malpractice case, a patient establishes the wrongdoing by using evidence to recreate the sequence of events that led to his or her injuries. This evidence can include medical records, witness statements and insight from experts who have reviewed the patient’s medical records.
One problem that often arises in Arizona medical negligence cases is that the patient’s version of what occurred may differ from what the doctor contends. This may make it difficult for a patient to show what actually transpired during a surgery or procedure.
Camera footage, however, could give experts a vivid picture of what occurred and help in a significant way with their analysis. Video footage could allow experts to clearly and confidently identify deviations from the appropriate standard of care.
Additionally, camera footage could be reviewed by experienced doctors and new surgeons alike and be used during medical training to help avoid similar errors in the future.
Potential Downsides of Cameras in Operating Rooms
Despite these potential benefits, cameras in the surgery room are not without their disadvantages.
Two potential drawbacks of allowing the cameras to be used are:
- The cost of installing and maintaining camera equipment in hospitals, which can end up being passed on to patients in the form of higher medical bills (aren’t they high enough already?).
- The need to develop regulations or standards to ensure that all hospitals within Arizona (or perhaps all hospitals in the nation) install cameras in a uniform fashion and maintain the data from these cameras in a similar way.
Another drawback is that the cameras may prove to be of minimal use to injured patients who are seeking damages in a medical malpractice claim. The value of the footage would be dependent upon the camera’s location in the operating room. For example, a doctor or nurse may block the camera’s view of the procedure, or the procedure may take place entirely inside the patient. This placement issue may necessitate discussion of whether surgeons and nurses should be wearing body cameras during procedures.
“Preventative medicine” may increase the necessary time to perform a surgery as well as the amount of follow-up care and testing that a patient receives.
In a Harvard University-sponsored patient safety conference, medical malpractice defense attorney Ellen Epstein Cohen also cautioned that allowing video cameras in the operating room could create a “chilling effect” that stifles important communication between various specialists and medical personnel who are present.
Additionally, legal battles may arise over who “owns” the video footage and whose consent is necessary before the footage can be used in court.
In this sense, deciding whether to allow cameras in operating rooms is a tough choice to be made by legislators. They will need to balance the rights and interests of several different parties, including the medical community, patients and their advocates. It will require careful consideration.
Julie’s Law in Wisconsin
One state that may be on the verge of allowing cameras in the operating room is Wisconsin. After the tragic death of their daughter Julie due to an overdose of propofol, one family has teamed up with a state representative to pass a bill giving patients the option to have their procedures recorded. If passed, the bill could provide very useful information about whether the benefits of the cameras outweigh the potential drawbacks.
What Should You Do If Injured by Suspected Medical Malpractice?
If you believe that you or a loved one may have suffered an injury at the hands of a doctor as the result of a surgical mistake, you should seek an independent medical evaluation right away from another qualified and competent doctor. You should also contact a Phoenix medical malpractice lawyer as soon as possible.
Taking both of these steps as quickly as possible may help you protect and assert your legal rights in the aftermath of a medical malpractice-related injury.
When you are ready to take action, contact the Arizona medical malpractice lawyers of Mushkatel, Robbins & Becker, PLLC. Our dedicated team of legal professionals will devote our knowledge and resources to investigating the cause of your injury.
We will work hard to help you to hold a negligent doctor accountable for the injuries and losses he or she has caused.
Our medical malpractice lawyers assist injured patients and their families in Phoenix, Scottsdale, Glendale and throughout Arizona. We can aggressively pursue the compensation you need due to the physical, emotional and financial harm you have suffered.
Call our law firm or contact us online without delay and let us assist you with your surgical malpractice case.
Zachary Mushkatel is an Arizona native who earned his undergraduate degree from the University of Arizona in 2001 and his law degree from the University of Minnesota Law School in 2004. After serving as a public defender, he entered into private practice and, ultimately, joined forces with Mathis Becker to form the law firm known today as Mushkatel, Robbins & Becker, PLLC. In addition to criminal law, Mushkatel practices civil litigation, with a focus on estate litigation and personal injury cases. He also serves on the Board of Directors for the Surprise Regional Chamber of Commerce and Sun Valley Lodge, and he is an executive officer and member of the Board of Directors for the West Maricopa County Bar Association.