Alan D. Bell Attorney at Law
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Foreign object left in patients can be from cellphone distraction

If asked "Where is your cellphone?" most people in New Jersey may point to various locations such as their pocket or hand, but it might be likely that it would be a nearby location. Smartphones have become a ubiquitous aspect of society, with most people using their phones for much more than just making phone calls or sending text messages to friends. Unfortunately, cell phones also wind up in the hands of those who should be focusing on other tasks. When surgeons find their smartphones more engaging than the task at hand, it may not be surprising to discover a foreign object left behind or that the entire procedure ended up being a surgery gone wrong

In 2013, smartphones were included on a list of the top 10 hazardous technologies in medical care. A surprising number of medical and surgical errors now occur while nurses, surgeons or anesthesiologists have their eyes glued to the screen of their smartphone rather than their patient. In one case, a family sued an anesthesiologist who had been on his phone or tablet instead of closely monitoring their loved one's vitals. The patient died after roughly 20 minutes of dangerously low levels of blood-oxygen in her system.

Although serious and typically the most problematic, distractions aren't the only danger of bringing a smartphone into the operating room. Before operating on a patient, everyone involved must scrub down to prevent the transmission of harmful bacteria or viruses to a patient. A smartphone, however, receives no such treatment. Past research has already demonstrated how easily viruses and bacteria are carried on smartphones, and even the Ebola-ravaged region of Uganda had cases of Ebola infection that occurred because of contact with cellphones, not infected individuals.

The benefit of technology in the world of medical care typically isn't disputed, and smartphones can even help doctors review and monitor patients vitals or records. However, as in other professional settings, there are times when it is appropriate and necessary to set the phone aside and instead focus on the task at hand. When surgeons find that they are unable to part with their phone, New Jersey victims can be subject to the serious ramifications of a surgery gone wrong or a foreign object left behind in their body. These patients can hold a surgeon deemed negligent responsible through the successful litigation of a medical malpractice claim.

Source:, "Is your surgeon focused on you or his smartphone?", Markian Hawryluk, Feb. 1, 2015

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Alan D. Bell
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