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Are double-booked surgeons higher risks of medical malpractice?

If you are scheduled for surgery at a Veterans Affairs hospital on your back, heart or brain, you are among the patients most likely to have a double-booked surgeon. What is that, you wonder. A doctor who bills twice?

No, a double-booked surgeon is one who is doing two operations in separate rooms at the same time. It is most common in orthopedics, cardiac surgery and neurosurgery, according to a recent report in a medical publication. Does the practice fatigue doctors and put patients at risk of harm due to medical malpractice? The jury is out on the matter, with impassioned opinions on both sides of the question.

Concurrent surgery -- also known as double-booked, simultaneous surgery, overlapping surgery and "running two rooms" -- is allowed in some hospitals. Two years ago, the Boston Globe dove into the practice with investigative reporting on simultaneous surgeries at Harvard's Massachusetts General Hospital.

Some doctors and hospital staff said concurrent surgeries add unnecessary risk to complex procedures. Sometimes of course, unexpected complications happen during operations that require the full-time attention of the primary surgeon -- a difficult feat for someone also committed to a separate surgery in another operating room.

In some cases, residents and assistants had to perform surgeries without supervision because the primary surgeon was occupied elsewhere. Another problem identified in the newspaper's article: patients often did not know that their surgeon was double-booked and many said they would never have agreed to an operation by a double-booked surgeon if they had known.

Defenders of double-booking say it's a safe practice that enables more patients to receive care in a timely manner.

Those who have been injured by a VA surgeon's negligence can contact a San Antonio attorney experienced in VA medical malpractice litigation.

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