Outsiders may know of phone use in OR

(Editor's note: This is the second part of a two-part series on surgeons using cell phones during surgery. In last month's issue, we offered viewpoints on what is acceptable. In this month's issue, we give you examples of phone use during surgery and tell you about cases from other countries.)

In many cases, inappropriate phone calls are more obvious to people other than the patient or the manager. For instance, Bonnie Russell, owner of 1st-Pick.com, a public relations agency in Del Mar, CA, says she has had several conversations with surgeon clients while they were operating on patients.

"I originally decided to work with one cosmetic surgeon because he regularly made trips to Mexico to help poor kids with cleft palates and things like that, all on his own dime. This impressed me," she says. "However, Dr. Do-Good's darker side very quickly emerged. He repeatedly called me from the operating room to talk about the need for more media exposure. It really kind of freaked me out to think that he was talking to me while operating on a patient. I mean, sure I wanted to talk to him, but not that much."

Russell says she has talked with several surgeons who seemed to think it was fine to take nonmedical calls in the middle of an operation. "I also had this one neurologist who bragged to me that he could be reached by phone anytime, and he really meant any time," she says. "I told him that just wasn't necessary, and I didn't want to talk to him in surgery."