From laughing gas to lawsuit: The anesthesiologist’s guide to avoiding surgical shenanigans

From laughing gas to lawsuit: The anesthesiologist’s guide to avoiding surgical shenanigans

Surgery can be a nerve-wracking experience for everyone involved, from the patient themselves to the scrub nurses to the anesthesiologist. In fact, anesthesiologists shoulder a unique burden during surgeries; they are, after all, the gatekeepers of consciousness, ensuring a safe and comfortable surgical experience.

In this article, we look into a few cautionary tales reminding us that even in the sterile environment of the operating room, things can go hilariously, and disastrously, wrong.

The doctor and his dancing partner

Anesthesiologist Roland Pinkney found himself in hot water after a patient filed a lawsuit against him and former cosmetic surgeon Windell Boutte.

On February 21, 2017, patient Latoya Rideau was under anesthesia while undergoing buttock liposuction. Dr. Boutte decided to crank up the tunes and let loose. According to Rideau’s lawsuit, Boutte and Pinkney filmed themselves dancing to the song "Cut It," by rapper O.T. Genasis. Boutte then shared the video on her Instagram account and YouTube channel.

When the video went viral in 2018, Boutte embraced the moniker of “Dancing Doctor,” — and, unfortunately for her, this led to a cascade of legal issues.

Rideau was one of at least nine former patients who filed lawsuits against Boutte in 2018, alleging medical malpractice and negligence. During that same year, the Georgia medical board suspended Boutte's medical license for two and a half years, citing the "Cut It" video as part of its rationale for her suspension.

In 2023, a Georgia state court jury deliberated for two days and determined that Pinkney was not responsible for any damages owed to the patient. However, the jury assigned fault to Boutte.

Boutte had this to say in her defense: “I’ve done nothing wrong. I’m a surgeon, I’m supposed to be able to multitask.”

While a little karaoke in the OR might sound entertaining, it’s a massive breach of professionalism and trust. And it can be upsetting for the patient; the lawsuit alleges that Boutte’s little dance party caused the patient emotional distress by making an ass out of her.

Loose lips sink ships…and careers

In 2015, anesthesiologist Dr. Tiffany Ingham made headlines for a different kind of surgical snafu.

Her patient, a Virginia man, identified in court only as “DB,” had accidentally left his phone recording while undergoing colonoscopy. It captured disparaging remarks and disturbing comments from Ingham, gastroenterologist Dr. Soloman Shah, and an unmentioned medical aide. Some of their remarks include:

  • Ingram said to DB, who was already unconscious, “After five minutes of talking to you in pre-op, I wanted to punch you in the face and man you up a little bit.”
  • When the medical aide observed a rash on DB’s genitals, Ingham cautioned her against touching it, suggesting she might acquire “some syphilis on your arm or something,” before joking, “It’s likely just a case of tuberculosis in the penis, so you’ll be fine.”
  • Ingham teased DB as a “big wimp” and insinuated he might be gay because he attended the University of Mary Washington in Virginia, a historically all-female institution.
  • Ingham remarked, “I’m going to mark ‘hemorrhoids’ [on his chart] even though we don’t see them and probably won’t.” (In fact, DB’s records contained a diagnosis of hemorrhoids, which the plaintiff claimed was a falsification of medical documentation.)

The jury found these actions unprofessional and awarded DB half a million dollars in compensation for the emotional distress caused.

Here’s the kicker: Ingham is licensed in Virginia, Texas, Louisiana, and Florida. Had she made those remarks in Florida, she may have gotten away with them. Depending on the state, the recording might not have been admissible as evidence. Virginia is a one-party consent state, meaning only one person needs to be aware of the recording for it to be legal. This differs from states like Florida, where both parties must consent.

This case is unique because the patient suffered no physical harm, but the emotional abuse was undeniable. The large settlement hopefully sends a message that medical professionals should treat patients with respect, even when they’re unconscious.

Numb the patient’s pain, not numb to the patient’s pain

A little humor can go a long way in calming patient anxieties, but it should never come at the expense of professionalism or patient privacy. Doctors and other medical professionals in an operating room should always keep it professional, maintain patient confidentiality, and remember that surgery is not the time to showcase one’s fondness for dancing, singing, or trash-talking.

Surgical shenanigans are no laughing matter. Should you find yourself a victim of one, get in touch with our attorneys, LaGrandeur & Williams. For quality legal services in Western Washington, contact us today.