This New Rule Will Hold Massachusetts Surgeons More Accountable

The Massachusetts medical board approved a rule on Wednesday that will require surgeons to document every time they enter or leave the operating room.

Massachusetts medical board

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When it comes to surgery, patients have a right to know who is operating on them. Sometimes, due to surgeon breaks and scheduling simultaneous surgeries, that’s not made entirely clear.

Beginning next month, all surgeons in Massachusetts will be required to document every time they enter or leave the operating room, and for how long, for any reason. That’s according to a new rule passed Wednesday by the Massachusetts Board of Registration in Medicine. Along with documenting their entry or exit, surgeons will also be required to identify the names of any participating “physician extenders” including residents, fellows, and physicians assistants.

The medical board, which oversees nearly 42,000 licensed physicians, first endorsed these requirements in January of 2016, according to The Globe. Further reporting in The Globe indicates that Massachusetts is one of the first states to approve such rules.

Some of the regulations may be prompted by surgeons at teaching hospitals operating on more than one patient at time, giving students a chance to step in, which, I’m sure as you can imagine, can cause some complications—especially without patient consent.

Candace Lapidus Sloane, chairwoman of the medical board, told The Globe, “As a doctor and as a patient, I know that when you undergo a serious surgery, or your loved one undergoes a serious surgery, you find the best doctor you can. You’re going there for that surgeon’s skill. And if it’s not going to be that surgeon [who actually does the operation], the patient has a right to know.” Basically, it comes down to getting what you’re paying for, right?

The only opposition to the rule, as stated by The Globewas from the Massachusetts Medical Society which deemed it too hard to identify all “physician extenders” because, especially at teaching hospitals, things can switch in an instant. But at that point, the patient should be informed and it should be their prerogative to move forward with the procedure or not.