The state medical board is investigating a surgeon who attended a Zoom traffic court meeting while in the operating room. A courtroom clerk asked the physician if he was in an operating room and the physician confirmed. He stated that he was available for trial, as another surgeon was also present. The court commissioner further clarified, asking if the surgeon was “actively engaged in providing services to a patient,” which the doctor confirmed.
The court commissioner stated he was uncomfortable with the situation and concerned for the welfare of the patient and requested the surgeon reschedule the trial for a time when he is not in the operating room.
The incident resulted in a complaint to the state medical board, which has stated it is investigating the matter. The episode raises important questions about medical ethics. Medical professionals are often extremely busy and making a court date may mean rescheduling important patient care.
Now that these meetings are often virtual, is it appropriate to multi-task? The answer is most likely no, as the attempt could result in a situation that does not meet the medical community’s expected standard of care. But perhaps a compromise is available. If, in fact, the physician was not needed in that moment in the surgery, could he have stepped out of the OR and attended the virtual meeting? That is likely a more nuanced question that could possibly result in a beneficial option for all involved.
These situations are novel, and physicians that find their decisions questioned are wise to act to protect their interests. Although they may feel they have a strong case to shut down a medical board investigation, it may be best to delegate the matter to a legal professional who can represent your interests.