British Columbia

Singing eye surgeon prevails in B.C. review board decision

A B.C. man who was offended by his surgeon's singing has lost his battle to see the doctor disciplined.
The B.C. College of Physicians and Surgeons says that while its members are advised to be mindful of what they talk or sing about in the operating room, there are no specific rules around singing or chatting during surgery. (CBC)

A B.C. man who was offended by his surgeon's singing has lost his battle to see the doctor disciplined.

In a decision released in January, B.C.'s Health Professions Review Board upheld a decision by the B.C. College of Physicians and Surgeons to dismiss the man's complaint about strange behaviour that upset him during eye surgery.

"The Complainant says that the Registrant's conduct of singing and talking about taking left over hospital towels to wash his car while putting a 'lense' into his right eye is unacceptable, arrogant, disrespectful and shameful," the review board's panel chair, David A. Hobbs, said in the written decision.

The patient complained to the College after receiving eye surgery in a hospital on May 20, 2011.

He said the surgeon told him he was going to use some of the facility's towels to wash a vehicle, and that the surgeon was singing during or after the surgery.

The College dismissed the complaint — a decision the patient appealed to the Review Board.

Susan Prins, the College's director of communications, says the complaint was investigated but no regulatory action was taken because the complainant's care wasn't compromised.

"The College does not have specific rules about singing in the OR, but physicians should be certainly be mindful of their actions and words during any procedure," Prins said.

"Professionalism is always expected in any patient-physician interaction."

The College of Physicians and Surgeons has encountered complaints about operating room conduct in the past.

In 2011, the college issued a reminder to surgeons that hockey talk and idle chatter between doctors and nurses is sometimes disruptive to patients who aren't sedated during procedures.

Prins says that, in other cases, the presence of non-medical discussions and other background noise actually helps put some patients at ease.

"We do know that surgical staff occasionally chat and play background music, which they report is successful in distracting patients from the surgery and helpful in terms of creating a relaxing environment," she said.

The Review Board agreed to a summary dismissal of the patient's appeal "on the basis that the application for review is trivial and has no reasonable prospect for success."

The identities of both the patient and the surgeon are not revealed in the decision, nor is the tune or tunes that were sung named.