A Seattle anesthesiologist, Arthur Zilberstein, MD, has had his license to practice suspended by the state Medical Quality Assurance Commission on allegations of sexual misconduct. This misconduct includes “sexting” during surgeries in which he was acting as attending anesthesiologist. Zilberstein also allegedly sent out a photo of himself wearing hospital scrubs with his genitals exposed. Additionally, he illegally prescribed drugs (mostly Oxycodone) to individuals at least 29 times without any proper evaluation or diagnosis. Zilberstein is also accused of having sex with one of the patients he prescribed Oxycodone to while he was at work. Zilberstein accessed images of his patients for sexual gratication. To top this list off, he allegedly made racist comments to one of his patients.
To address the legal issues that arise from a situation like this, we have to consider several concepts. First, Zilberstein is responsible as a doctor to provide quality medical care to his patients. By prescribing drugs incorrectly (especially a highly controlled schedule II substance like Oxycodone), he is in fact harming his patients. This abuse of prescription writing, if true, is medical malpractice. If it is shown that Zilberstein was prescribing drugs in exchange for sexual contact with his patients, it may also be assault and may also make Zilberstein liable for damages. The “sexting” during surgery supervision does not meet the standard of care required of a doctor but unless it can be shown that this activity caused damage to the patient then and only then would it be actionable medical malpractice. It is likely Dr. Zilberstein’s patients’ surgical records will be reviewed to assure that no harm arose from his misconduct in the operating room.