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The dangers of smartphones in the operating room

Smartphones can put a wealth of critical information at a doctor's fingertips. However, they can also present a temptation to check emails, read texts and find out how many likes their latest Twitter post got. That's why the presence of smartphones in the operating room has become a safety concern.

They can cause doctors and other personnel to lose focus on the patients and, in the worst cases, cause medical errors. As one professor who's written on the subject says, "Once we get into or start using our cellphones, we separate ourselves from the reality of where we are. It's self-evident: If you're staring at a phone, you're not staring at the monitors."

There are no government or even industry regulations against having a smartphone in the operating room. However, individual hospitals may place restrictions on what they can be used for or mandate that they be silenced. Of course, there's no guarantee that rules will be followed. One doctor says that in his surgical facility, "it is a policy that is routinely violated."

Perhaps one of the most famous and perhaps egregious misuses of a phone during a surgical procedure involved comedian Joan Rivers. The comedian died after undergoing a throat procedure at a New York City endoscopy clinic. During the ensuing investigation, it was discovered that a doctor took photos of Rivers during the procedure. The problems that led to her death, however, weren't directly linked to the doctor's picture taking.

Distractions in the operating room didn't begin in the 21st century. Doctors were known to read newspapers in years past. They also sometimes brought medical journals into the operating room. However, a weighty scholarly book isn't going to provide as much of a distraction as a small device on which you can check your Facebook page and find out what new tech device Amazon has just put on sale.

If you or a loved one is harmed during a surgical procedure, it's prudent to investigate whether the surgeon or any of the medical personnel in the room were distracted by anything -- including their cellphones. An experienced New York personal injury attorney can provide valuable advice and guidance.

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