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Is That A Salesman Who's Operating On You?

The patients lying on operating tables may not know it. But it's a well-known fact among surgeons and surgical nurses that medical equipment sales representatives routinely advise surgeons regarding surgical procedures - and they sometimes actually perform them. This phenomenon is particularly common in joint replacement and spine surgeries.

A study done in 2014 revealed that 88 percent of the medical device sales representatives surveyed said that they had provided verbal instructions to surgeons during surgeries. Twenty-one percent of the sample said they had had physical contact with patients on operating tables. Numerous respondents reported having to instruct surgeons as to the proper way to perform surgeries or operate medical equipment. Forty percent of those surveyed questioned the competence of surgeons performing operations they observed.

Why are these "healthcare industry representatives" allowed in operating rooms? Often, it's because they simply know more about the procedures being performed and the medical devices being implanted in patients. Having observed numerous operations, they can answer surgeons' questions and provide advice concerning problems that arise during operations.

But allowing medical device representatives in operating rooms raises serious ethical and legal issues. And over the last 30 years, numerous lawsuits have been filed and won alleging negligence on the part of surgeons and the healthcare industry representatives who participated in surgical procedures. The benefits and drawbacks of allowing such representatives to participate in surgeries will continue to be a source of discussion, controversy - and litigation.

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