What Is a Ghost Surgery? Webster's Dictionary defines it above as "the practice of performing surgery on another physician's patient by arrangement with the physician but unknown to the patient."
Simply put, it's a bait and switch tactic, especially if you've vetted and specifically chosen your surgeon.
In the case of a ghost surgery, the only surgeon's name you'll see on paper will be the name of the one you met with and hired. However, he/she has no intention of performing your surgery or being present during its critical part. Instead, he/she will stop into your operating room to get a report right before going out to the patient's family to state how the operation went. In scrubs.
What Can Result From a Ghost Surgery?
To see what a ghost surgery can look like, visit our section titled, Jack's story. These graphic pictures of our son show his results but the consequences can range in severity. There might not be any consequence if the patient never finds out there weren't complications. If no complications occur but the patient finds out, new distrust may be born towards our medical community. If complications do occur, they can be life altering for the patient and his/her family. Most often, the substituting surgeon is less experienced and isn't as familiar with the patient's medical history. Risk increases for infection, foreign objects left in the body, stroke, internal bleeding, organ/tissue damage or death.
What Isn't a Ghost Surgery? There's no formal definition of what a ghost surgery isn't, however; current laws bleed into the answer. It's vital you know and understand the laws (which are laid out over this website). If you don't have a thorough understanding of legally allowed and what isn't, you may in fact claim you were a victim of a ghost surgery when in fact, you were not.
Understand the Following Two Facts
For surgeries performed at a non-teaching institution, Webster's definition holds true with little interpretation. Unless an emergency arises and the surgeon is called away last minute, there's no reason the surgeon you hired shouldn't be the one performing it.
For surgeries performed at teaching institutions, the definition doesn't change. However, one critical component must be determined. Was the attending/hired surgeon present during the critical part of your surgery? Surgical residents and fellows in teaching hospitals influence the ultimate role of your hired surgeon. In a teaching hospital, the surgeon you've hired (called the attending) is only required to be present during the critical part of your surgery. We assure you. We know that might be a surprise or bothersome. It was to us at first as well. However, the more we read, the more we learned that a resident or fellow may have been at a bedside, performing that surgery 200 over 4-7 years of clinical practice and postgraduate surgical education. So long as they're consistently monitored and reviewed, as well as in good standing, there's no reason they shouldn't be allowed to perform critical portions of a surgery, under the direct supervision of the surgeon you hired. After all, it's called a teaching hospital for a reason and the only way for new doctors to learn and become expert attendings is to perform the skill in front of the expert, guiding eyes of one.
To be clear, the law does not state the attending (or the surgeon you've hired) must physically complete the critical part of your surgery. You have the right to ask questions, however, prior to the surgery and there is a medical record, in your full, designated record set, which records the times in which the surgical team is present (including the attending).
If you're questioning whether or not the surgeon you hired was present for the critical part, request the record from the hospital's medical record department to prove or disprove your theory.
Public Understanding and Education
Most people still think what we once thought; in a teaching hospital, residents and fellows observe and help but only under the direct supervision of the hired, attending surgeon. This is only sometimes true.
We once thought attending surgeons were with their patients from the start of surgery to finish. This too, is only sometimes true.
Before you become anti-teaching hospitals,we ask that you become educated instead of avoiding them. Teaching hospitals employ some of the best physicians and surgeons in the country and often, they are the hospitals on the cutting edge of medicine, able to take on the most standard to the most difficult cases. Everything comes down to the knowledge you have, the questions you must ask and what should be put in writing prior to your surgery. If you have those things, we believe, you can obtain the best surgeons in the nations.
We hope you have many questions as you start on your own journey for clarity and awareness. The end result will allow you to take charge of your medical care, self-advocacy and even the education of others in need of the same information.
Knowledge is power.
The wealth of information on this website may leave you feeling overwhelmed. That's why there's always tomorrow. Come back and read to learn a little more each day. Be proactive and learn it now because surgeries for you or a loved one often aren't planned. It's devastating to think of the families who sat scared, hopeless and alone, wishing they'd only made the time to learn then, what they needed to know at the moment.
Ghost Surgeries, LLC. PO BOX 333 Milford, OH, 45150