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  • How was the deliberate cut in the cava entered in the patient's chart. As an 'accident'? Or left out as in "if it isn't charted, it didn't happen." Also, isn't it malpractice for a doctor to intentionally injure a patient. Or does the hospital consent form allow such actions if used for teaching purposes. Regardless that the experience benefited you, or that the patient recovered, it just seems so wrong to willfully conduct such an experiment on a clueless, unconscious patient with no stake in the game.

      • All good questions, Emily, and I totally agree with you. As a patient who recieves care, including surgery, at a teaching hospital, I'm a bit horrified at the intentional cutting of that poor patient's cava. What if there had been a complication? What then? I too, would like to know what the patient's chart/surgery report says happened in that OR. I'm bracing myself now for the possibility of multiple docs chiming in with "We do this sort of thing all the time." I hope not though. Aren't there enough patients with existing problems without cutting them unnecessarily? How the patient would feel about this seems to be completely off the OP's radar.

          • Emily: I completely understand your shock and horror. As one of the other commentators remarked, it was a different era. Time will tell if we are better or worse off today... I can tell you that since much has changed in the last twenty years, surgical residents today touch instruments much less often, and many report feeling unprepared for the rigors of attendingship when they have finished their training. Their work hours are restricted, their experience likewise, and I have seen more than a few young attendings that can't operate their way out of a paper bag. They have been trained in a kinder, gentler environment, and that is great as long as every operation goes as planned. They're rock stars with computer keyboards, however...!

            In answer to your objection, the only stake in the game is the well being of the patient - the one on the table, and every one whose life I will ever be responsible for. Don't think for a moment I take that responsibility lightly.

            When there is a computer simulation that adequately prepares surgeons for unexpected anatomy, findings, and intraoperative unplanned "events," I will be the first one to sing Hallelujah. It hasn't been invented yet - so until that time, you better pray that you never get a hole in a cava. But if you do, you better hope that the person holding the knife can actually fix it in less than the five minutes it will take for you to bleed to death.

              • Thank you for your response. But I still can't wrap my head around the freedom these doctors had/have to deliberately and secretly injure their patients for training purposes. After reading your article it's hard for me to believe that the well being of your mentor's patient at that time was his number one priority. The patient's safety was compromised to create a teaching moment. And then a warning from you that the new crop of surgeons will be lacking skills because this method is now off the table. I don't know what to think about this anymore except a new dread has been added to my anxiety of being a hospital patient. How do I go back to being blissfully ignorant.

                  • As someone stated, that doctor would be sued for medical malpractice. This wouldn't be tolerated at any of the institutes that I have trained at or been affiliated with. Back then, vascular and cardiothoracic surgeons used to be treated like gods. Now, they are fighting with cardio to do stents and are losing (imo). Oh how the times have changed.

                    Yes there are concerns that younger surgical residents don't feel 100% confident in operating by themselves. It is complex, but the simplified version is that we nerfed general surgery residency and do get to crack patients open because everything is done minimally invasively. I don't think we should extend training though. 5 years of gen surg residency is plenty long.

                    I don't know if ortho, neurosurg, plastics, and other integrated programs feel unconfident after 5-7 years of training on average (you will always have a few residents who feel unconfident to operate by themselves).

                    • A long time ago I traded in the expression "ignorance is bliss" for "Chance favors the prepared mind." It works better for me.

                      I can see how you might view surgery and surgical training as a source of dread; let me try to provide you with some reassurance.

                      Uncertainty is an undeniable part of surgical practice. All surgeons would like to care for patients who have no co-morbidities: no asthma, no heart disease, no sleep apnea, no kidney dysfunction, no cirrhosis. We want patients who are young, take no medications, and who run 10K's for fun, because we know they have the constitution to get through whatever physiologic challenges might come up in the course of a hospital stay. Alas, healthy people do not need surgery. Only sick ones do. And I take care of them.

                      When I do a colon resection on a patient who is elderly, obese, hypertensive, who's on twenty medications, and inhalers, and has a walker, and when I'm looking at that anastomosis (the spot where the colon has been seen back together again), and it's tenuous, and yet I've done everything humanly possible to give that anastomosis and that patient the best possible chance to heal, my best effort doesn't placate me. I fret. For the three or four days after that surgery that I wait for that anastomosis to heal, I don't sleep. I lie awake at night, waiting for the phone call that he's got a fever, or tachycardia, or worsening pain. If the patient is nauseated, I wonder - is this it? Are we going to have to go back to the OR? I worry. I agonize.

                      And when the patient gets better, the gut works, he chows down on his gross hospital food and tells me he's ready to get out of here, I rejoice. The patient's colon cancer is gone and he can pack his duffel bag of meds and his walker and go back to the life he was living.

                      How do I take your anxiety away, Emily? All I can tell you is that surgeons are human too, and despite all the bad press about doctors who cut corners and make mistakes and the financial healthcare crisis and superbugs overrunning hospitals, and all the rest of it, doctors DO care. Though no one publicizes it anymore, doctors still go into medicine to heal the sick, to try to help people when they're ill. We spend years of our lives learning how to do that best, how to cure when the patient can be cured, and how to console when they can't.

                      It should not frighten you that surgeons are human, Emily, it should comfort you. Find a doctor you can talk to, a doctor you feel good about, someone you feel that really cares about you and whom you feel you can trust. That is what doctors need: patients who trust them to do the right thing. That is our stake in the game- the patient wants to be cured, and the surgeon wants to make it happen.

                    • This is why educated people don't trust doctors. They should not. Trusting health care providers is demonstrably irrational. Thanks for giving everyone a clear example.

                      • Patient Kit This author was obviously trained in a different era

                        • We should teach sharpshooting the William Tell way. Apple on top of head of shooter's significant other, child, parent. That was we will be sure they know how to make the critical shot under pressure. (shake my head).

                          Nope. This was not okay. Informed consent in this scenario meant being informed that your surgeon intends to put your life at risk for training purposes. Non-essential risk is a violation of the Hippocratic Oath.

                            • I'm amazed that someone was willing to write this without using a pseudonym.

                              "Though I may not have agreed with his actions on that day, I do understand them."

                              Choosing to create a potentially-fatal medical emergency as a "teaching moment"? How is that an understandable trade-off? It shows a remarkable disregard for potential complications. It's not like repairing the injury is like using a magic wand; you can't go digging around in there like the patient's an old Honda and stick it back together again. Even after the injury was repaired, this surgeon had created risk for the patient with no benefit.

                              If you want your students to get experience in fixing traumatic injuries, put them in an environment where they can get that experience. Don't go around maiming people at random so that your students can get in some practice!

                              So much is missing here. Presumably this was recorded in the patient's notes, right? Were they ever informed? Were they ever informed accurately? What did the hospital's legal department make of this? If the incident was hushed up, isn't the author leaving herself open to some sort of liability by copping to the fact?

                                • What's the procedure if the patient were to have died due to the complications caused by this "teacher"?

                                  Would they have have been charged with homicide?

                                    • That is assault and battery. She should have reported the attending to the police. He should be criminally prosecuted as well as losing his medical license.

                                        • Check out today's Twitterstorm about this post (@AliceDreger @Skepticscalpel @ZackBergerMDPhD @HeartSisters for example) in which Dr. Hope Amantine (a pseudonym) NOW tweets:

                                          "dear patients: it's fiction. It was not meant to offend. Sorry it upset you."

                                            • Actually if you already had experience treating emergency ruptured aneurysms then you should have had enough "trial be fire". Surgery is like following a road map. You can see, even memorize the step by step directions but actually traveling the road is entirely different. Bad weather, potholes and other unanticipated obstacles can all hinder your progress and not everyone can do it without getting lost. Thats what makes a good surgeon.

                                                • Story sure sounded apocryphal to me. After a lot of discussion and criticism, the author has admitted this is fiction: https://twitter.com/HopeAmanti...

                                                  Shouldn't this be indicated on KevinMD as a disclaimer?

                                                    • So is this story fiction or not? Author @HopeAmantine tweeted "@HeartSisters dear patients: it's fiction. It was not meant to offend. Sorry it upset you."

                                                        • There is an excellent course called Anatomy of Complications that is run in Perth and Singapore and allows you to do exactly this scenario on anaesthetised pigs. Of course, now I have upset PETA.

                                                          I agree that current training is not as extensive as once was. This will result in more surgeons doing fellowships, working in academic enters with loads of assistance available, or in large city hospitals with equal support. It will primarily affect the smaller hospitals in rural areas in my opinion.

                                                            • Yes- i.e., my little town. I was in bigger cities doing hard core surgeries earlier in my career; now I've settled down in more of a Mayberry. But if you think having your surgery in a university hospital means that you will have only the finest, top notch care, think again. You've traded in one delusion for a new one, in my opinion.