You wouldn’t want your doctor standing in front of you scrolling through their phone while you’re waiting to hear the results of your latest scans or tests. Likely, you wouldn’t want to know that their phone was on and in easy reach while they’re operating on you either.
However, it could be. It depends on the regulations of the hospital or facility where they’re working and perhaps on their own choices.
Hospitals set their own rules, but there are recommended protocols
Medical facilities are free to establish their own rules regarding whether doctors, nurses and others working in an operating room (OR) can have their cellphones with them and if and when they can use them.
The American College of Surgeons (ACS) has acknowledged that phones and other electronic devices like Apple watches can’t be banned from ORs. It has issued recommended protocols to prevent “undisciplined” use of these devices. Among them are the following:
- Alerts and ring tones should be silenced.
- They should only be used for urgent communications.
- Incoming calls should be forwarded to voicemail or to another location if they need to be answered.
- They cannot violate any sterilization protocols.
- They cannot interfere with any devices like monitors needed for the procedure or patient safety.
- They cannot be used to violate a patient’s privacy.
Some egregious misuses of cellphones has gotten media attention, such as doctors using them to record videos or take pictures of anesthetized patients. An investigation following the death of comedienne Joan Rivers during a relatively routine endoscopy procedure in Manhattan in 2014 revealed that her doctor had taken cellphone photos of her during the procedure. While that didn’t directly cause the problem that led her to go into cardiac arrest, such behavior certainly isn’t going to help a doctor dealing with a malpractice action.
If you have suffered harm or a loved one has died during surgery, it’s crucial that all of the events surrounding the surgery are investigated. That’s just one reason it’s important to have experienced legal guidance if you’re considering a medical malpractice claim.