5 Shockingly Childish Abuses of Power by Hospital Employees
By Simon Bower , A.C. Grimes June 26, 2014
If sitcoms have taught us anything, hospitals are populated by man-children, witty megalomaniacs, and lovable perverts. Fortunately, when we actually have to go to a real hospital, we find out otherwise — hospitals kind of need to keep things professional, since a tiny mistake can mean death and a massive malpractice suit.
Of course, not everyone got the memo …
#5. Multiple Surgeons Dabble in Organ Graffiti
Surgeons go through years of higher education before they’re trusted with the most intimate task of cutting someone’s chest open and messing around in there, so you can be sure that they’re pretty proud of their work. Sometimes a little too proud, as with the case of Simon Bramhall, a respected surgeon at Queen Elizabeth Hospital in England, who was suspended in December last year when co-workers noticed him burning his initials into a patient’s liver. The hospital is now concerned that he may have done this to hundreds of patients’ organs over the course of his 10-plus years working there, though maybe they should be more worried that Bramhall will someday decide to reclaim the organs, since he clearly called dibs.
“Oh yeah?! Well, I don’t see your name on … oh.”
But somehow this is only one of the most recent incidents of this kind of behavior. In 2010, a California gynecologist named Red Alinsod was sued for using an electrocautery device to carve the name “Ingrid” into patient Ingrid Paulicivic’s uterus. Alinsod claims he did this so that he wouldn’t confuse her uterus with the others, because as we all know, hospitals don’t label vital organs or put them in containers, but simply toss them onto an ever-growing pile on the floor.
And the uterine graffiti trend goes even further back: In 2003, a Dr. James Guiler from Lexington, Kentucky, was sued by 10 of his patients for branding “UK” on their uteri. It wasn’t some monarchist declaration of loyalty to the British Isles, but a tribute to his education at the University of Kentucky. We’re assuming it was due to school spirit and not a horribly ill-conceived viral marketing campaign.
#4. Hospital Staff Finds a Patient’s Rectal Eel Problem Hilarious
We imagine that treating hospital patients can get pretty boring. The same old symptoms, day after day — heart palpitations, shortness of breath, bloody stools — how passe. So on the occasion that someone checks in with a truly unique situation, like if an eel climbed up someone’s ass or something, you can imagine that hospital staff would get a little excited about the break in routine. Such was the case in 2013, when a man checked into a New Zealand hospital complaining that, yeah, an eel had in fact climbed up his ass.
“IS IT REALLY IMPORTANT HOW IT GOT UP THERE?!”
Now, it hasn’t been revealed how exactly this set of circumstances came about, but it has been revealed that the wayward fish, who very much took a wrong turn at Albuquerque, was about the size of a sprig of asparagus. Upon learning about his situation, a bunch of hospital employees broke regulations to snoop on the victim’s X-rays and medical records. And by that we mean as many as 82 employees.
Unfortunately, there’s always one asshole who will take things too far, and somebody leaked the X-rays to the media. Surprisingly, the outlet declined to publish the story, instead notifying the hospital that their staff thought their patients’ confidentiality rights were trumped by their noble desire to bring hilarity to the public. At least one employee was dismissed, dozens of others subjected to disciplinary action, and even more investigated, including nurses, midwives, junior doctors, and senior officials. We don’t have any information about the status of the eel in question, but we hope Pixar does a Finding Nemo-style feature about the incident, told from the eel’s point of view.
#3. Hospital Staff Makes Internet Memes on the Job
Hey, remember planking? That fad a few years ago when the Internet collectively went insane and decided that taking pictures of oneself lying down on various surfaces was clever and hilarious? Not everybody thought so, least of all the authorities and employers who had to deal with people climbing street signs and emergency service vehicles for that perfect plank shot.
In 2009, the trend arrived at Great Western Hospital in Stuffy-Sounding-Location, U.K., and resulted in the hospital cleaning house by suspending seven emergency room doctors and nurses for getting plank-happy on the job and uploading the photos to Facebook. If that sounds harsh, keep in mind that this is a hospital — in the course of planking on resuscitation trolleys, ward floors, and even a helipad, they broke several health and safety and infection control regulations (but at least they got valuable Internet points for totally planking on that coma patient in Ward 4). Hell, we’re pretty sure planking on company equipment will get you fired from Taco Bell.
And that’s not the only case of hospital staff throwing professional conduct out the window for Internet kudos. Nurses in New South Wales in Australia have been reprimanded for taking time out of their day-to-day routines to take selfies and post them on Twitter and Instagram when they really should have been focusing on things like driving ambulances and restarting arrested hearts. In addition to posting “naughty selfies” dripping with sexual frustration, the NSW Health crew took the most heat from superiors for posting photos of an anaesthetized patient, using hashtags like #postop and #nomorewilly, suggesting he’d just undergone a sex change operation, when in reality he was recovering from shoulder surgery (we’re not sure if the inaccuracy of the tags makes it better or worse).
Or, you have this classy gentleman, who professes to the world that he “pulls in all the bitches at work.”
“My gross ethical breaches of patient confidentiality bring all the girls to the yard.”
#2. Nurse Writes a Prank Letter to a Patien
We acknowledge that the job of a hospital nurse can be one of the toughest in the world, what with irate patients, long hours, and contact with bodily fluids that nobody should have to contend with in their everyday life. Maybe that’s why nurses at Carstairs Hospital in Scotland had a habit of turning up to work drunk and making asses of themselves.
“‘My arm hurts, my vision is blurry, I think I’m having a heart attack, meh meh meh!’ That’s what you sound like.”
Inevitably, a patient lodged a complaint with the hospital about the conduct of its staff, and that’s when things got really stupid. Nurse David Best took it upon himself to respond to the complaint in the most mature and thoughtful way he knew how: the written equivalent of a Bart Simpson prank call. Best mocked up a fake response letter pretending to be a lawyer from a major law firm, reprimanding the patient for his defamatory remarks and threatening legal action. The name he signed at the bottom? “Hugh Jarse” (get it?). Yeah, the guy probably doesn’t have a Nobel Prize in his future.
When the patient didn’t appreciate the joke, he brought his own lawyer in, and that’s when things got bad for Nurse Best, whose name now carried overtones of irony. The prank quickly landed Best in the unemployment line. His defense was that the drunken behavior of his colleagues — which included charges of assault — was much worse than his own, and they kept their jobs. That’s probably a valid point, but the courts rejected the appeal, since the solution to that problem would actually be to fire all of those other jerkoffs before they kill somebody.
#1. An Orthopedic Surgeon Shows a Penchant for Pranks
So it’s fairly clear from the list so far that, contrary to what Scrubs taught us, nobody actually appreciates wacky shenanigans when they’re occurring in a hospital. And, as we’ve seen, it’s apparently really hard to convince medical professionals of this. Take orthopedic surgeon Dr. Benjamin Allen, for whom the surgery theater was just another uptight office environment begging for his ill-advised brand of levity. We can imagine the hospital staff was already wary the first time they saw a guy come to work looking like this:
“Be careful, his bow tie is really a camera!”
What Allen considered to be a series of light-hearted jokes to put patients and colleagues at ease, the Virginia Board of Medicine regarded instead to be an “egregious pattern of disruptive behavior.” In one of his noteworthy transgressions, Allen decided it would be a hilarious idea to schedule a knee replacement surgery for one of his patients, only to cancel it as a joke whose punchline failed to impress the nurses who prepped the patient for a phantom procedure. As a result, another surgeon was unable to get time in the operating room for a real surgery, while Allen’s patient was left wondering what rogue circus clown had put on doctor makeup and gained permission to cut people open.
Obviously never one to pass on an opportunity for slapstick, Allen also found himself on the hot seat for having a little too much fun during surgery with the help of a nearby nurse and a surgical staple gun. While attempting to staple the nurse’s sleeve (after having used the staple gun on a patient), Allen accidentally punctured the nurse’s arm, potentially exposing her to whatever blood-soaked foot fungus he was operating on at the time.
It’s all fun and games until someone contracts an infectious disease from a freak staple gun fight accident.
These ridiculous antics, along with an unhealthy habit of arguing with other doctors (how could he ever not get along with someone?), got the jocular doctor a fine of … $1,500. So, just a few cents shy of the cost of hospital-administered aspirin.