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How smartphone use by medical personnel can endanger patients

Many of us don't go anywhere without our smartphones. They're constantly pinging with incoming emails, texts and comments on our Facebook posts -- not to mention phone calls.

Doctors and other medical professionals aren't immune to the distractions inherent in their smartphones. They have improved communication considerably. Long gone are the days where a doctor's pager went off and they had to get to a telephone to check on an emergency situation. They also allow doctors to access information in seconds.

However, we assume that doctors turn their phones off and put them away when they're in surgery. Unfortunately, that's not always the case.

Patient safety advocates warn that smartphones are becoming an increasing distraction for surgeons and medical staff during operations and other medical procedures. One anesthesiologist calls it "a major health issue." Medical errors -- sometimes fatal ones -- have been linked to the use of smartphones by doctors and other surgical team members who were texting, checking messages, browsing social media or even taking photos.

Medical malpractice attorneys are aware of the issue. As the anesthesiologist notes, "If something…happens in the operating room, we know the malpractice litigant's lawyer is going to get records of everybody's cellphones in the room."

In addition to the distraction of smartphones, they can also be filled with germs. These can be a serious danger to an already sick or injured patient -- certainly one whose body has been cut open for surgery.

Patient safety advocates and insurers are placing pressure on hospitals to place limitations on smartphone use by anyone on a surgical team. One safety advocate says, "There are surgeons and anesthesiologists who are on board with this, but I would say the majority still need to be convinced that it's a problem."

Being wealthy and famous doesn't exempt a patient from falling victim to a doctor's smartphone distraction. In fact, it may make it worse. After Joan Rivers' death during a routine medical procedure at an endoscopy clinic, investigators found that the clinic director had snapped a photo of the comedienne while she was under sedation.

If you or a loved one suffered harm or worse during a surgical procedure due to the actions or negligence of medical personnel, your Mississippi malpractice attorney may look at the use of smartphones and other devices by the team during the procedure.

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