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Published: Monday, 8/12/2002

Hardly a smooth operator

An East Coast surgeon has been forced to take some time off - hopefully to ponder the absurdity of his recent professional lapse in the surgical suite.

A Cambridge, Mass., doctor, David Arndt, ducked out of the operating room in the middle of delicate back surgery to make a little run to the bank, leaving his anesthetized patient to lie there with an open incision.

Yeah, we had to read that a second time, too.

Dr. Arndt dashed off to a bank several blocks away in Cambridge, apparently to deposit a paycheck just handed to him, oddly enough, by another physician while he was in surgery. We've heard of living paycheck to paycheck, but this is a little ridiculous.

This was six hours into delicate spinal surgery. Dr. Arndt asked the other doctor to stick around a bit while he took a break. The other doctor, who thought Dr. Arndt was simply going to the restroom, did not have the credentials or the training to perform the procedure and had not scrubbed either.

A little over half an hour later, Dr. Arndt returned to finish up. Turns out the patient was not harmed, and the surgery was successful, but the doctor's behavior is absolutely unforgivable. It's not likely the Harvard-trained orthopedic surgeon's alma mater is proud of the guy.

Dr. Arndt apologized to the patient, but that's much too little and too late. Massachusetts' state Board of Registration in Medicine rightly suspended his license - indefinitely.

If nothing else, the doctor did provide medical schools with a textbook example of how not to practice surgery.

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