Cellphone Distractions in the Operating Room

While texting and driving is almost universally agreed to be one of the most dangerous habits of this current generation, dangerous texting has begun to branch out into other areas of people’s lives. Interviews have shown that the medical field has had an increasing rate of errors in the operating room related to the use of personal technology, such as checking social media. Celebrity Joan Rivers, who died of cardiac arrest after her oxygen was cut off, appeared in photos with her surgeon during surgery while under anesthesia. Another incident in Dallas was reported where an anesthesiologist was emailing and texting instead of watching the patient’s vital screens. This lack of attention led to the death of the patient whose dropping oxygen levels went unnoticed for 20 minutes. From checking text messages to online shopping, cellphone distractions in the medical field are rising. The handheld computer is being cemented into daily routines at a growing rate, and business policies are struggling to catch up.

Oftentimes after a car accident, the first question asked is whether the driver was on their cellphone or not. This question should never even be considered in the operating room. When a patient is in surgery, there should be no concern that the surgeon will post a status update mid-surgery, the anesthesiologist will send a text, or the remaining staff will start looking at vacation pictures. Sending data can also prove to be disruptive to medical machines. In addition, it has been proven that cellphones assist in carrying bacteria and viruses from person to person, proven by the Ebola outbreak in Uganda which was caused by cellphone sharing. A single phone can leave the operating room desterilized. However, technology has helped monitor vitals from a distance, pull up medical history, or call for assistance, and cannot truly be removed from the medical field. Policies need to be tightened in order to keep the safety of the patient a priority and rid the OR of needless distractions.

If you or someone you know has been a victim of medical malpractice, contact an attorney at Abraham, Watkins, Nichols, Agosto, Aziz & Stogner by calling (713) 222-7211 or toll free at 713-222-7211.