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Boston Doctor Gets ‘Slap on the Wrist’ After Falling Asleep During Surgery

— November 10, 2021

A Boston doctor fell asleep in his car and didn’t return to perform a surgery.

Dr. Tony Tannoury, 54, said he wanted to eat prior to a surgery he was set to perform, stepped outside for a bite in his car, fell asleep, and never came back.  In fact, the doctor didn’t return until the next day and the procedure had to be performed by someone else.  Tannoury is the head of spinal surgery at the Boston University School of Medicine.

Tannoury has now been ordered to pay $5,000 for falling asleep in his car when he was supposed to be attending the surgery after he admitted to failing to return from his dinner break.  The incident happened back in 2016, and the disciplinary action took five years, which the medical board says has to do with a variety of issues with the case.

According to disciplinary records, “Tannoury and a colleague rolled a patient needing an emergency ankle surgery into the operating room at Boston Medical Center around 9:30 pm.  Tannoury, the head surgeon, said he wanted to eat prior to the surgery and stepped outside for a bite in his car.  The patient was notified of the situation and the chief resident performed the surgery after Tannoury missed it.”

Boston Doctor Gets 'Slap on the Wrist' After Falling Asleep During Surgery
Photo by Anna Shvets from Pexels

An subsequent investigation by the Massachusetts Board of Registration in Medicine followed this year and resulted in the consent order on October 25th.  Tannoury must also complete five professional development courses, according to the board, whose mission is to “ensure that only qualified and competent physicians of good moral character are licensed to practice in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts and that those physicians and health care institutions in which they practice provide to their patients a high standard of care, and support an environment that maximizes the high quality of health care in Massachusetts.”

A press release detailing the finding in this case states, “The Board reprimanded Dr. Tony Tannoury, after he admitted in a Consent Order that he left a patient in the operating room under the care of the chief resident when he was the orthopedic attending covering for emergencies, that he was not present for the critical portions of the surgery as required by hospital policy and did not return to the hospital until the following day.  Dr. Tannoury was also fined $5,000 and required to complete continuing professional development credits in professionalism.  Dr. Tannoury was first licensed to practice medicine in Massachusetts on December 21, 2005.  He currently practices medicine in Boston.  He is also licensed to practice medicine in Maine.”

Executive director George Zachos, of the Board responded to questions about the timeline, stating that it took some time to determine all of the facts of the case.  No further disciplinary action was taken, such as suspending or revoking the doctor’s license, because, according to the order, the surgery ended okay and there were “no additional issues.”

“The surgical outcome was positive,” a BMC spokeswoman Jenny Eriksen Leary clarified.

Not everyone believes that the fine is sufficient – particularly surgeons who practice in other states.  “That’s just the proverbial slap on the wrist,” said Dr. James Rickert, an orthopedic surgeon from Indiana. “I can’t believe that if that was a board composed mostly of patients that they wouldn’t have had a much harsher penalty.”


Boston doctor fined $5,000 after he fell asleep in his car during emergency surgery

Surgeon fined $5K for leaving operating room to eat in car — then falling asleep

Board of Registration in Medicine (BORIM)

Massachusetts Board of Medicine Takes Disciplinary Action – 10/21/21

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