This week, we discussed the case of a surgeon who left an operating room to eat a meal and then fell asleep in his car — missing the operation. Now, there is a new case involving a Democratic representative and surgeon from Maryland who participated in legislative meetings while operating. The multitasking of Dr. Terri Hill, a state delegate and board-certified plastic surgeon, led to a relatively light sanction: a reprimand and a $15,000 fine by the state physician’s board.
In a remote public hearing in February, Hill presented a bill while performing “major abdominal surgery.” According to FOX 45, the Zoom call showed a solid blue background but Hill was shown in her surgical gown. She was recorded saying “I’m at work, yes. You’re at work. I’m at work.”
In a March legislative session, she again appeared in an operating room for a “major abdominal and back surgery.”
Hill was found to have engaged in “unprofessional conduct in the practice of medicine” in joining at least two Zoom meetings with other lawmakers in the last year during surgeries.
The case is reminiscent of a prior case that we discussed involving Dr. Scott Green who appeared remotely in a Sacramento Superior Court for a trial of a traffic violation during an operation.
In this case, there is an added twist. Hill insists that the patient consented to the bizarre arrangement. However, the patient said that she does not recall such a conversation and thus challenged the account that she consented to multitasking during her own operation. It would certainly seem a curious request of a patient.
Hill accepted the fine but downplayed the offense and punishment as “constructive criticism”:
“As a physician and a professional, I always look for ways to improve my practice. Sometimes this includes accepting constructive criticism from others. I accept the Board’s decision that I could have done better.”
I think that there is little question that she “could have done better.” What is astonishing is that such a clearly unprofessional and dangerous practice is a matter for a simple fine rather than a suspension of her license. The patient denies knowledge of any consent and even the request to allow multitasking in a surgery should be viewed as improper.
There is also a question of legal liability. The operations (as with the one earlier this week) appear to have been successful. The patient quoted in the article could claim trauma after-the-fact but she did receive the services of her chosen doctor and did not appear to have suffered any injury. That would make for a difficult tort case.
Hill represents the state’s 12th Legislative District in Baltimore.