Phoenix Doctor’s Picture Taking Latest Sad Tale of Medical Malpractice

A Phoenix, Arizona surgeon faces a disciplinary hearing for <"">medical malpractice after taking a picture of a patient’s tattooed genitals during an operation. And if taking the photograph wasn’t enough, the surgeon showed the picture to other doctors. Mayo Clinic Hospital administrators said Dr. Adam Hansen, chief resident of general surgery, admitted shooting the photo with his cell phone on December 11th. The tattoo on strip club owner Sean Dubowik’s penis reads: “Hot Rod.” Dubowik, who had undergone a gallbladder operation, said he learned of the photo Monday when the Mayo Clinic called him, saying “I got a strange call after my surgery from a doctor who said there was a problem. He said Hansen was on the phone and would explain.” Dubowik, 27, said Hansen told him he took the picture while inserting a catheter into his penis. A member of the surgical staff made an anonymous call about the photo to The Arizona Republic on Monday. “He told me he didn’t want me to read about it in the newspaper first,” Dubowik said.

Hansen wasn’t available for comment Tuesday and has been placed on administrative leave and could face a range of punishments from probation to dismissal. “Patient privacy is a serious matter and photographing someone in this manner without a good reason is something we will investigate down to the last detail,” said Dr. Joseph Sirven, education director for Mayo Clinic Arizona; the hospital’s parent organization based in Scottsdale.

Dubowik said he got the tattoo on a bet and that “it was the most horrible thing I ever went though in my life.” He said he does plan on contacting an attorney, adding “The longer I sit here, the angrier I get.”

This is not the first time the medical community has been recently criticized. A D.C.-based advocacy group found only 33% of doctors who made 10 or more malpractice payments were disciplined by their state medical board; some—with as many as 31 payments—have never been disciplined. One survey revealed nearly all doctors do not turn in unethical peers, one-third admitted they would order unnecessary MRI scans; 25% referred patients to an imaging center where they had a financial interest; fewer than one percent had lied to patients; three percent withheld critical information from patients or family; and 11% breached patient confidentiality.

Most states have confidential substance abuse rehab programs allowing physicians to continue practicing given they continue treatment; as many as 8,000 doctors may be in such programs. Doctors accused of botching operations while in treatment have led to criticism of programs allowing physicians to keep their addictions confidential.

Then there’s Dr. Harvey Finkelstein, the anesthesiologist who exposed thousands of patients to blood-borne pathogen infections. The state Department of Health has urged thousands of Finkelstein’s patients to be tested. As a result of his practices, one patient contracted hepatitis C; six others tested positive for hepatitis B and six more for hepatitis C. Finkelstein has far more malpractice settlements than any other pain-management specialist on Long Island and, in 1995, was sued, on average, once or twice yearly.

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