Are some doctors distracted in the operating room? The allegations against one Seattle anesthesiologist are disturbing. Dr. Arthur Zilberstein sent numerous text messages, many sexual in nature, from the operating room, including dozens during a stomach surgery.
INSIDE EDITION’s Lisa Guerrero caught up with Dr. Zilberstein and asked, “Were you putting your patient’s lives at risk when you were texting sexual messages during procedures?”
Dr. Zilberstein responded, “I'm not at liberty to talk to you right now.”
“The Department of Health said that you've exchanged over 200 texts. Was that appropriate?” Guerrero then asked, but Zilberstein didn’t respond.
Believe it or not, experts say that distracted doctors in the operating room are not all that unusual. With long lulls during procedures, we found some doctors surfing the web, taking photos or even reading a book while they are supposed to be monitoring patients.
Debbie Milne’s mother, Roseanne went into surgery at a hospital in Dallas for a routine heart procedure. She never woke up.
Milne told Guerrero, “It was absolutely the worst day of my life. I was devastated. I couldn't believe I was losing my mother that night.”
She hired attorney Maria Wormington to find out what went wrong, and was shocked at the results of her investigation which found that during the procedure, the anesthesiologist, Dr. Christopher Spillers, exchanged 13 text messages, used the internet 36 times, and made three phone calls - one of which lasted 3 minutes 27 seconds.
Maria Wormington said, “I think the public would be horrified if they knew how common place this behavior is.”
During a videotaped deposition, Dr. Spillers said, “I cannot deny that I wasn't on the phone at all but if I was, it was for a very brief period of time, less than two minutes.”
Wormington asked, “Do you surf the internet?”
“No,” Dr. Spillers replied.
Wormington then asked, “Ever?”
“Well, depending on your definition of surf. I do not spend extended period of time accessing the internet,” he said. “I will occasionally check email, I will occasionally check scheduling for the office, but in general the time spent on the internet is brief.”
Wormington asked him about a photo of a medical monitor which he took during another surgical procedure. He even posted it on Facebook with the caption: "Just sitting here watching the tube on Christmas morning. Ho ho ho."
“So you think it's appropriate to post the anesthesia monitor with patient information on Facebook?,” Wormington asked.
“There is no patient data, this is just numbers. It’s okay,” he replied.
Wormington says patients would be shocked if they only knew what sometimes goes on behind the closed doors of an operating room. “I want people to realize this is a big, dangerous issue.”
Dr. Spillers has denied any wrongdoing.
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