Whistleblower doctor who raised issue of concurrent surgeries wins lawsuit

A Surgeon Sugery
A judge has ruled in favor of a neurosurgeon who raised concerns about concurrent surgeries.

A neurosurgeon who raised concerns about concurrent surgeries at a hospital in New York state has won a lawsuit, as a judge found his challenge of the controversial practice cost him his job.

New York Supreme Court Justice James P. Murphy ruled after a bench trial that University Hospital in Syracuse, New York, retaliated against James Holsapple, M.D., after he spoke out about a spine surgeon running two operating rooms at once, according to The Boston Globe (sub. req.). He may be the first doctor to win a lawsuit alleging retaliation for raising concerns about the double-booking of surgeries, also known as concurrent surgeries, the newspaper said.

Holsapple, who now works as chief of neurosurgery at Boston Medical Center, resigned under pressure from University Hospital in 2009. The court awarded him $88,277 in lost wages under New York state’s whistleblower law, which his lawyer estimates could top $150,000 because the doctor is entitled to interest, the publication reports.

A spokesman at University Hospital told the newspaper that the New York attorney general’s office, which defended the case since the hospital is part of the State University of New York, is considering an appeal.

Concurrent surgery has become a controversial topic and the subject of other legal action. A Boston jury found earlier this year that an orthopedic surgeon at Massachusetts General Hospital did not inform a patient that he planned to operate on two patients at the same time, but concluded that the concurrent surgery did not cause the man’s paralysis.

Concurrent surgery, in which a surgeon performs two surgeries on two different patients in two different operating rooms at the same time, turning over parts of the surgery to assistants, is particularly common in major teaching hospitals. New guidelines were released last year by the American College of Surgeons that stress informed consent so a patient knows that a surgeon will be performing concurrent surgeries.

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A U.S. Senate committee investigated the practice of concurrent surgeries in the nation's hospitals and last December released a report urging hospitals to prohibit the practice of allowing one surgeon to manage two operations, where critical parts occur at the same time.