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Lawsuit: Patient Suffered Emotional Distress Listening to Surgeon Talk While He Operated on Her

The doctor allegedly spooked the patient when he spoke about night sweats and blurred vision in Spanish as part of a language proficiency exam.

Published: December 11, 2017

DISTRACTED DOCTORING? The patient's lawyer said the doctor's cell phone use would have distracted him during surgery.

A woman has sued her surgeon for talking on his cell phone while he operated on her varicose veins, claiming the conversation she overheard caused her emotional distress because she had to go through the rest of the surgical procedure thinking that the doctor might not be able to see what he was doing.

Turns out the surgeon, Eric Fishman, MD, of the Westmed Medical Group in Purchase, N.Y., had what he thought was a perfectly good reason for talking on the phone during the September surgery. He told the patient, Mary Edwards, 70, that he was taking a Spanish proficiency exam because he needed to be certified in Spanish in order to communicate with his many Spanish-speaking patients, according to the lawsuit. Dr. Fishman allegedly also told his patient that her surgery was the only time he was able to take the proficiency test, says the lawsuit, which seeks unspecified monetary damages.

But Ms. Edwards got spooked when she heard Dr. Fishman talking in both English and Spanish about such topics as diabetes, night sweats and blurred vision, which Dr. Fishman says was a part of his language exam, the suit says.

Ms. Edwards understands English and Spanish and says in the lawsuit that the phone conversation made her panic. Mitchell Baker, an attorney for Ms. Edwards, said Dr. Fishman started speaking on the phone about halfway through the 30-minute procedure.

"When you do an operation and the client is under the knife, you put everything aside," says Mr. Baker.

Dr. Fishman and his medical group did not respond to a request for comment.

Anna Merriman

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