What is Ghost Surgery? Does It Violate Informed Consent?

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You need surgery. Before your surgery date arrives, you meet with the physician that will be performing the procedure. During the conversation, they explain what’s to come and answer your questions. You expect that they will be performing the surgery personally.

The day of your procedure arrives. You undergo the procedure, and you wake up afterward. Later, you discover that it wasn’t the physician you met with originally who performed the surgery. Without telling you, someone else operated on you.

You are the victim of ghost surgery.

What is ghost surgery? Is it a violation of informed consent if you’re not told that another physician is substituting in? Our Greenville medical malpractice lawyer explains ghost surgeries and informed consent.

About Ghost Surgeries

What is ghost surgery?

Ghost surgery is when someone other than the person agreed upon performs the procedure. A different person operates on you without you knowing.

Understanding ghost surgery

When you agree to have surgery, you agree to have a specific person perform it. You trust in their skill and training.

There may be several reasons that the doctor decides to substitute out, including:

  • Allowing a less senior doctor or medical student to have some training
  • Not feeling well, illness
  • Sudden emergency
  • Being double booked or wanting to spend time on something else
  • Wanting to spend more time reviewing procedures with patients to effectively sell procedures rather than perform them
  • Feeling emotionally unwell and unable to focus

The doctor may have good intentions when they allow someone else to perform your surgery. However, that doesn’t make it right. When you decide to have surgery, you agree to work with a specific person. Ghost surgery is an ethical violation. It may be a legal violation, too.

Ghost Surgery in South Carolina – Legal Implications

Ghost surgery is both ethically and legally wrong. The South Carolina code of medical ethics, S.C. Code Regs. § 81-60, states that a physician must be honest with patients. They must expose physicians who act fraudulently or deceptively. South Carolina doesn’t specifically have a law that uses the words “ghost surgery,” although the legislature introduced a bill in the 1977-78 session to define the practice.

Performing ghost surgery is a violation of informed consent. The standard is whether the physician departs from the acceptable standard of medical care. The physician must present the necessary information to allow the patient to make an informed choice. This includes talking about the risks of the procedure, chances of success, and possible alternatives. Failing to notify the person that someone else will be performing the procedure is likely a violation of informed consent. Hook v. Rothstein, 281 S.C. 541 (1984); Aiken v. Clary, 396 S.W.2d 668, 673 (Mo. 1965).

Legal causes of action for ghost surgery

There may be several different causes of action in a claim based on ghost surgery. The exact ones you pursue depend on the facts of what happened and the legal jurisdiction.

A claim may be based on a lack of informed consent. See Hook, supra; Newell v. Trident Medical, No. 25815 (S.C. 2004). Breach of contract, assault and battery, fraud, and negligence are other causes of action that may be appropriate. An experienced lawyer can evaluate the case to determine what claims to raise in your case. (See Belin v. Dingle, 358 Md. 354,749 A.2d 157 Md. Ct. App. 1999), ruling that ghost surgery is deceit. The court allowed separate causes of action for negligence and breach of contract. The victim also claimed battery; Meyers v. Epstein, 232 F. Supp. 2d 192 (S.D.N.Y. 2002), where a victim claimed multiple causes of action where the victim was told one doctor would perform brain surgery, but a second doctor was also involved.

Can you receive compensation if you’re a victim of ghost surgery?

If you’re a victim of ghost surgery, you may qualify for financial compensation. Doctors have an obligation to perform surgery up to ethical and professional standards. When ghost surgery occurs, it is a violation of your trust.

At Bobby Jones Law, we help victims pursue their rights in every way possible. If you have questions about a procedure you received or know a ghost surgery occurred, we invite you to contact our offices. Attorney Bobby Jones and his legal team will look at all the options to hold offenders accountable and pursue your right to compensation.

Call or message us today to talk about your case.

The team at Bobby Jones Law LLC works tirelessly for the injured in South Carolina. His achievements include:
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We’re humbled to be considered one of the top firms in the Upstate and invite you to learn what sets our award-winning legal services apart. Call or request a consultation online.
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