Medical malpractice is never a joking matter, yet it is difficult to find cases more perplexing than that of Dr. Windell Davis-Boutte, a dermatologist who filmed herself dancing and singing while performing cosmetic surgery and posted these videos online. Seven lawsuits have been filed against her for malpractice.
This behavior is even more upsetting given that medical error is one of the primary causes of death in the United States, ranking third behind heart disease and cancer. According to a Johns Hopkins study released in 2016, more than 250,000 people die every year due to medical mistakes. This figure does not take into account how many errors cause other types of harm that has lasting effects on patients and their families.
Many medical practitioners seem willing to hide or dismiss these alarming statistics, but as long as admitting to medical error is taboo, and medical boards are unwilling to dole out harsh penalties, we will continue to have an ailing healthcare system.
Dancing Dermatologist Goes to Court
While online videos often go viral, few are like the 21 YouTube videos that Boutte shot in her operating room. The clips featured her dancing and singing while gesturing with surgical tools over the bodies of unconscious patients. Over 12 patients from 5 states have complained about the doctor so far. While several lawsuits are pending, 4 have been settled out-of-court.
The complaints against Boutte claim patients were disfigured, and had infections following surgery. While the doctor is licensed as a dermatologist, one patient who went to her for facial surgery was also convinced to have abdominal surgery. There were serious complications during the procedure, resulting in brain damage that has led to her requiring constant care.
Another patient said she specifically asked that a video of her surgery not be posted online, but the doctor ignored these requests. Not only did her bare bottom appear with the dancing doctor, she suffered a blood clot after surgery and had to be hospitalized for 4 days. Boutte’s clinic billed her $29,000 for the stay.
In a third case, a woman wanted to have expensive laser fat reduction surgery, but Boutte performed liposuction instead. When the patient returned to have the surgery redone, she was told she wouldn’t need someone to drive her home. She woke up after the procedure in a motel room, holding a partially-eaten sandwich. Apparently, the doctor had checked her in and forged her signature.
The malpractice lawsuits claim that Boutte should not be able to do these operations because she lacks proper training. While her website advertises that she is certified to perform surgery, Boutte is only certified as a dermatologist. At the same time, under Georgia law anyone with a medical license may do surgical procedures. The lack of strict regulation means some doctors have switched from emergency room and obstetrics care to doing breast reduction surgery and other cosmetic operations, putting their patients at grave risk of harm.
Putting Professional Loyalty Before Patient Care?
The Georgia Composite Medical Board is reviewing Boutte’s case and will not discuss it publically, but they have known about her lack of professional conduct since March of 2016. Many of those who have filed complaints against Boutte had their procedures done after the board started collecting evidence. While this lack of action is appalling, it is part of a national healthcare system in which mistakes are often dismissed or ignored.
While medical errors are usually not this blatant, small mistakes can have big consequences when it comes to patient care. This can be as simple as a doctor not asking a patient about pre-existing conditions, or a nurse giving a patient the wrong dose of medication. Many of these medical errors are never reported on charts, so it is impossible to know the real scope of the problem.
But we do know that the system trains young doctors to think there is no room for mistakes, which means many errors are hidden. Combine this lack of accountability with a professional board that is too willing to defend its own, and you have a prescription for disaster.
While there are many dedicated individuals involved with our healthcare system, the sad fact is that others want to earn as much money as they can as easily as they can, and they don’t care who they hurt. It’s clear that doctors and patients must continue to work together to call out malpractice, for this is one of the only ways we can heal the system that has caused so much damage.