Are Anesthesiologists Responsible for Locking Up Potent Drugs?

Denver anesthesiologists are arguing they are not required to lock up potent surgery anesthetics, despite a 2009 OR theft that left 18 patients infected with hepatitis C, according to a Denver Post report.

The controversy over physician responsibilities arose after an infected patient brought a lawsuit against Sherry Gorman, MD, in February. The patient said he wants the public to know that some physicians believe securing potentially dangerous drugs is not their problem.

The infected patients contracted hepatitis C at Rose Medical Center in 2009, after technician Kristen Parker stole the sedate fentanyl when it was left unlocked and unattended, injected herself and then refilled the used syringe with saline solution.

Physicians testifying in Dr. Gorman's defense — including Frank Bonifacio, MD, the chairman of a major anesthesiology department at St. Anthony Hospital — will say that physicians do not have a duty to lock up drugs like fentanyl at all times.

Dr. Gorman said in a deposition that her standard practice was to draw up medications before surgery, then hide the drugs in unlocked OR carts underneath intubation tubes or other equipment. She said that she trusted personnel like Ms. Parker to keep the drugs safe while she left the room to help post-operative patients.

The defense strategy and the expert testimony by Dr. Bonifacio contradict federal guidelines and the practices of anesthesiologists and staff at other hospitals, according to the report.

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Research Participants May Misunderstand Medical Consent Forms

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