Top Boston Doc Prepped ER Patient for Surgery, Then Fell Asleep in His Car

·2 min read
Wikimedia Commons
Wikimedia Commons

Massachusetts state regulators have fined a top Boston doctor $5,000 after a 2016 incident in which he went to his car, ate something, then fell asleep—all while a patient waited on an emergency room operating table for ankle surgery.

Dr. Tony Tannoury, the head of spine surgery at Boston Medical Center, admitted to the state’s Board of Registration in Medicine that he missed the surgery, intending to eat something while the patient was being prepped before eventually passing out in his car.

The episode was reported two months later to the state board, executive director George Zachos told The Boston Globe, resulting in an investigation.

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The medical lapse led to the board concluding Tannoury “engaged in conduct that undermines the public confidence in the integrity of the medical profession.”

Tannoury eventually learned that a chief resident who helped him move the patient to the operating room had performed the operation, which was successful, in his absence. Tannoury, who was the attending surgeon for the night, then left early and returned the next day.

The incident had not been publicized until a board order was released on Monday, almost five years after it occurred.

It’s not the first time Tannoury’s work has been scrutinized. Six years ago, the Boston Globe’s Spotlight team revealed Tannoury would sometimes run two different operating rooms at once, a practice Boston Medical Center said at the time was tightly organized. The policy was eventually discontinued after the Spotlight report came out and before the ankle incident.

Tannoury has been head of spine surgery at the Boston University School of Medicine, which works with the medical facility, since 2006, according to his LinkedIn profile. In addition to the $5,000 fine, Tannoury received a reprimand from the state agency.

“That’s just the proverbial slap on the wrist,” Dr. James Rickert, the president of the Society for Patient Centered Orthopedics, told The Boston Globe. “I can’t believe that if that was a board composed mostly of patients that they wouldn’t have had a much harsher penalty.”

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