You may join a Zoom court trial from different locations. From your office, your living room, your man cave, your woman cave, your strikingly large One Direction shrine, and maybe even your bathroom, depending on what specifically you happen to be doing and wearing at the time. But from an operating room? That may be a different story.
Sacramento Superior Court Commissioner Gary Link was apparently not very happy to see that Scott Green, MD, a plastic surgeon, seemed to be joining a Zoom videoconference for his traffic violation trial from an operating room. Yes, an operating room. You know that place where surgeons are supposed to be operating on patients? And speaking of operating on, Link was concerned that an actual operation was under way at the time.
Take a look at the video accompanying the following tweet, which showed what happened before the scheduled beginning of Green’s Sacramento Superior Court trial on Thursday:
Bruh. Or rather Dr. Bruh.
As you can see in the video, Link took a look at the different Zoom windows on the screen and then inquired, “unless I am mistaken, I am seeing the defendant that’s in the middle of an operating room appearing to be actively engaged in providing services to a patient. Is that correct Mr. Green? Or should I say Dr. Green?”
When Green confirmed that he was indeed in an operating room with a patient undergoing surgery, Link then said that he was not comfortable with such a situation and expressed concerns about the welfare of the patient.
To that, Green explained, “I have another surgeon right here who’s doing the surgery with me, so I can stand here and allow them to do the surgery also.”
Link then responded, “I don’t think that’s appropriate,” and decided to have the trial rescheduled.
An operating room is not a general purpose location like a conference room or a cabana. You don’t tend to hear people say, “hey let’s have some drinks in the operating room,” or “I think I left my open-faced Gorgonzola, pear and walnut on sourdough sandwich in the operating room” or “you know a great place to play Twister? The operating room.” Since operating rooms need to be kept as clean and as sterile as possible, it may be best to minimize any other activities besides surgical and cleaning operations in such rooms. Therefore, an operating room may not not the best place to take a Zoom meeting for something that has nothing to do with surgery.
Again, not only did Green join from the operating room, it looks like he was in the middle of an actual operation. Would that be like a firefighter joining a Zoom call during a fire, a lawyer joining while in the middle of another trial, or a football player joining in the middle of a game? You don’t see Tom Brady saying, “I have a running back handling the ball right now, so I can stand here and allow the other players to play the game also.”
Another issue is patient confidentiality or the potential lack thereof. “Don’t worry your secrets are safe with me, except for the livestream over the Internet” is probably not something that patients will want to hear. You never know what private details may emerge during the course of a patient’s visit to the doctor or during a procedure or an operation. These days others on the Internet may be able to determine who is undergoing a surgery and what the person’s condition may be just by seeing or hearing a video and piecing together other types of available information such as the timing of the video. Heck if Facebook can figure out you really like hot dogs, who knows what other algorithms may be able to determine from a video of an operation.
Moreover, patients should have a right to know what may be happening during their operation. It’s not clear whether the surgeon informed the patient prior to the procedure that he will be participating in a Zoom court trial during the operation. That’s a detail that the patient would probably want to know and then have the option of saying, “yeah, about the Zoom call during my surgery and the livestream over the Internet, could you, um, not do that?”
As Minyvonne Burke reported for NBC News, the Medical Board of California indicated that it “is aware of the incident and will be looking into it, as it does with all complaints it receives.” I’ve also reached out to Green’s office for further comment.
Ultimately, performing surgery is not like watching a cat video. Missing details on a cat video may not be problematic, unless of course the cat happens to be carrying a thermonuclear warhead at the time. Surgery is a different story. Missing details can mean the difference between a successful and not so successful surgery or even worse.