Vargas: Just like police officers, surgeons should seriously consider use of body cams


Dear Medical Professionals:

Like many institutions in America, my beloved profession of policing is under assault.

Yours will probably be next.

Please learn from our missteps.

For example, we have been slow to forcefully tell our side of the story when needed, allowing vocal critics to frame and inflame certain incidents and situations, such as the assault on the Ferguson police officer who had to use deadly force to save his life.

Now, many police departments are turning to body cams. They are proving helpful in defending against false claims – and also in holding officers accountable.

I read a Washington Post story Thursday about alleged reprehensible and possibly racist comments of a secretly recorded surgical team in Houston.

Maybe it’s time for other professions to consider body cams?

Of course, the public should be angry whenever somebody in a position of trust acts like an idiot.

In this case, the medical team allegedly made sexual and racially charged comments while performing a hernia procedure on an unconscious woman.

Obviously, their behavior in no way represents all American surgeons and medical professionals.

But I’m concerned about the hospital’s “no comment” response.

Experience has taught us that “no comment” is often interpreted as “you have something to hide.”

In this case, the hospital should condemn the alleged inappropriate comments, launch an inquiry into the behavior in their operating rooms, consider revoking the surgeon’s privileges during the probe and give the public confidence that they demand the highest standard of care for their patients and professionalism from their employees.

In other words, don’t wait for the lawsuit.

Like cops, surgeons have a difficult job to do under stressful circumstances.

Like cops, surgeons sometimes kill people in high-risk situations even while performing their jobs professionally and honorably.

Like cops, these decisions can happen in fractions of a second.

Like cops, their jobs require education and training and are not easy to get.

And like cops, despite all the best efforts and systems to root out incompetent or brutish people, they still are human.

Malpractice happens in operating rooms, as it does on the streets. And walking among the tens of thousands of good surgeons and cops are a few really bad ones.

The overwhelming evidence and common sense tells me the overwhelming majority of surgeons got into the profession to help people and to save lives.

Just like the vast majority of the cops I’ve known throughout my life.

Joe is a retired Anaheim Police Department captain. You can reach him at