One of the highest-paid surgeons in the United States was hit with two lawsuits alleging that the doctor was not performing his own surgeries. According to the lawsuit, Dr. David Samadi, the head urologist at Lenox Hill Hospital in Manhattan, routinely allowed medical residents, who are still in training, and other doctors to perform the surgeries. According to the lawsuit, Dr. Samadi may have left up to 1,000 of his patients in the hands of another, less-skilled doctor or resident.
According to Dr. Samadi, the surgeon was merely “double-booking” his surgeries, a controversial practice where the surgeon is not present for an entire surgery. Instead, he or she “delegates” portions or sections of the surgery to another medical professional. According to an analysis of hospital records, Dr. Samadi has performed 2,182 urologic surgeries since began working at Lenox Hill Hospital in 2013. A full 70 percent of these surgeries overlapped with another surgery. The New York Post reports that on a single day in 2014, the doctor “performed” eleven surgeries, and all but one overlapped.
Speaking to the New York Post, Dr. Samadi said, “Every critical part of the case and every important part of the case is done by me. The residents don’t perform anything on their own in a vacuum.” The distinction made by the alleged absentee doctor is important. While the practice of “double-booking” is not banned, Medicare rules forbid hospitals from doing concurrent surgeries if the “critical parts” of the two surgeries would occur at the same time.
The problems from Dr. Samadi’s habit of “double-booking” surgeries are numerous. First, the lawsuit alleges that none of the patients were even aware that another surgeon may perform any part of their surgery. For these patients, agreeing to have a surgery performed by a world-class doctor and then unknowingly receiving the care of a still-in-training and unlicensed resident can feel like the ultimate betrayal.
Predictably, this habit of double-booking was not without consequence. Both patients who filed lawsuits against the doctor alleged that he “excessively prolonged” general anesthesia so they would not wake up early and realize that another surgeon had performed their surgery. In addition to this gross breach of trust, the patients also state they received “serious physical injuries” resulting from the unsupervised, inexperienced residents that performed their surgery.
In one instance, Stephen Markelson had blood in his urine and an enlarged prostate when he agreed to have Dr. Samadi perform surgery on him. The surgery, however, was reportedly started by a resident and, upon complications, abruptly halted after two hours. Dr. Samadi was performing a surgery on another patient for all but 25 minutes of Markelson’s surgery. Markelson returned to the hospital days later with a “massive amount of blood” in his urine and had the same surgery performed, again.
The surgeon, who received $6.7 million in compensation from Lenox Hill in 2015, receives a higher compensation for performing more surgeries. According to the Boston Globe, Lenox Hill officials have previously confirmed Dr. Samadi routinely performs two surgeries at once but is always present for “major surgeries.” The Upper East Side hospital did not have any comment on the pending lawsuit.
In addition to the lawsuits, the surgeon’s habit of “double-booking” is currently being investigated by both the United States Attorney’s office in Manhattan and the New York State Department of Health.