Bill on ghost surgery hurdles committee level

THE House of Representatives Committee on Health has approved in principle a bill which seeks to prohibit the practice of ghost surgeries by medical doctors and hospitals.

House Bill 742 defines ghost surgery as a practice where a surgeon delegates the surgery to another surgeon which the patient does not know or has not even met before.

Rep. Luis R. Villafuerte (3rd District, Camarines Sur), author of the bill, said ghost surgery happens when busy and popular surgeons would schedule their surgeries in two to three hospitals with overlapping time frames.

Villafuerte said that since there is no way the said surgeon can be physically present in all these hospitals at the same time, he will just take the time to show his face while the patient is still awake before the actual surgery.

“The surgeon then leaves the hospital and the patient meanwhile presumes that said surgeon will be his/her operating surgeon not knowing and without his consent that a different doctor will do the operation on the patient,” Villafuerte said.

The Bicol solon said another method in which ghost surgery is carried out is when an attending doctor who is not a surgeon admits a patient for surgery in a hospital but it will be a surgeon-colleague or a resident surgeon who will do the actual surgery.

“During the whole operation or surgery, the patient is led to believe that the surgery was actually performed by his or her attending doctor,” Villafuerte said.

He said that in ghost surgery, the attending surgeon and the operating surgeon who had an internal arrangement on the case split the doctor’s fees.

Villafuerte added that any well known and busy anesthesiologist can likewise be guilty of practicing ghost anesthesia for the same reasons as that of ghost surgeons and that fee-splitting is also widely practiced in this case.

“The hospitals where such unethical, illegal and immoral practices are performed are very much aware of the ghost practice and fee-splitting,” he said.

Villafuerte said the life-threatening risks, post operation hazards, possible failure and other related grave consequences on the patients and their families who may be victims of ghost surgery will be damaging not only to the individuals and families concerned but to the whole society as well.

He said that “ghost surgery is a legally and ethically dangerous practice that must not be promoted.”

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