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The Rise of Assembly Line Medicine


A recent $2M verdict against a Syracuse orthopedic surgeon unveiled  what seems to be a serious problem in modern medicine: The assembly line approach to conducting patient care. The orthopedic surgeon was accused of performing 14 surgeries per day and compromising the quality of his surgeries for the ability to perform more.

The surgeon was sued over a hip replacement that he performed six years ago. The patient alleged that she was permanently disabled as a result of the surgery and now must spend the rest of her life walking with a cane. The woman now lives in Florida.

Assembly Line Surgery 

This trial shined a critical light on the practice of what is now termed assembly line surgery. Assembly line surgery is characterized by doctors who go from one operating room to another performing the most critical part of the surgery and then leaving to go perform another critical part of another surgery. Meanwhile, residents and other surgeons are left to complete the rest of the surgery.

According to the plaintiff, she was the 6th in a line of 14 surgeries that the doctor performed that day. The doctor began his day at 7:22 AM and completed all his surgeries by 9:40 PM. That is 14 hours straight of doing 14 surgeries.

According to evidence presented at trial, the doctor performed surgeries across two or sometimes three operating rooms. While some studies say that this practice is safe, the sheer volume of surgeries the doctor performed shows the results may have been impacted by the practice.

The Results of the Surgery 

According to the plaintiff, the doctor fractured the patient’s femur during the surgery then neglected to tell the patient until six weeks after the surgery had been performed. The plaintiff pointed out that truck drivers and bus drivers are prohibited from operating motor vehicles without rest for extended periods of time, yet doctors can be in surgery for 14 hours straight without repercussion. Nonetheless, the plaintiff must show surgical errors resulted in the injury.

Meanwhile, the doctor testified that if a surgery was taking longer than expected, he would postpone the next surgery to devote more time to his patient.

Whether or not the practice of assembly-line medicine is causing increases in the rate of adverse medical results continues to be the target of debate. However, one patient believes that had her doctor spent more time taking care of her hip replacement, she would not have suffered life-long injuries that decreased the quality of her life. A jury agreed with her and awarded her $2 million as a result.

However, the patient is still required to prove that some negligence resulted in the adverse medical outcome. If their theory of negligence is that the doctor failed in his duty of care because he performed 14 surgeries in one day, they may find the verdict overturned on appeal.

Talk to a St. Petersburg Medical Malpractice Attorney 

If you’ve been injured by an act of medical negligence, the St. Petersburg medical malpractice attorney at Masterson & Hoag, P.A. can help you recover damages related to your injuries. Talk to us today for a free consultation.




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