Calif. Doctor Appears in Virtual Traffic Court While Performing Surgery; State Will Investigate
"I don't think that's appropriate," the presiding court commissioner told Dr. Scott Green, who confirmed he was in the middle of surgery when he dialed in for a video trial
A California doctor who showed up in traffic court via video link, wearing scrubs in the operating room with a patient laid out on a surgical table behind him, has caught the attention of the state's medical board, which plans to investigate.
Dr. Scott Green, a plastic surgeon, was facing an unspecified charge in Sacramento Superior Court's traffic division on Thursday when he logged in for his trial, according to video of his appearance, which was posted by The Sacramento Bee.
"Are you available for trial?" asked a surprised court clerk when Green's image popped up on the video. "It kind of looks like you're in an operating room right now."
"I am, sir. I'm in an operating room," confirmed Green, who also was masked and wearing a surgical cap as the sounds of medical machinery could be heard in the background. "Yes, I'm available for trial, go right ahead."
The clerk then explains the event is being live-streamed on YouTube because of limited pandemic access to the courtroom and to comply with the legal requirement to open all trials to the public before asking Green to raise his right hand and be sworn in.
As the clerk rises to make way for the judge, the doctor's camera briefly swivels to show a patient and other activity under way in the background. In another Zoom box on the screen, a police officer awaits her chance to testify.
The unusual scene quickly caught the attention of presiding court Commissioner Gary Link, in his black robe, as he sat down in front of the video camera to begin the proceeding.
"So, unless I'm mistaken, I'm seeing a defendant that's in the middle of an operating room appearing to be actively engaged in providing services to a patient," Link said. "Is that correct, Mr. Green?"
"Yes, sir," Green said.
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Link continued: "I do not feel comfortable for the welfare of a patient if you're in the process of operating that I would put on a trial, notwithstanding the fact the officer is here today."
Green, looking down and with his hands out of view, then assured the judge: "I have another surgeon right here who's doing the surgery with me, so I can stand here and allow them to do the surgery also."
"Not at all," Link replied, shaking his head. "I don't think so. I don't think that's appropriate." He said he'd set a future trial date "when you're not actively involved or participating in attending to the needs of a patient."
"I apologize, your honor, to the court," Green said. "Sometimes surgery doesn't always go as, as --"
"You know, it happens," the commissioner interrupted. "We want to keep people healthy, we want to keep 'em alive, that's -- that's important."
He rescheduled the trial for March 4, and reiterated, "I'm concerned about the welfare of the patient based on what we've seen."
In a statement issued Friday, the Medical Board of California vowed to review the incident, saying it "expects physicians to follow the standard of care when treating their patients," reports the Bee.
A call by PEOPLE to Green's Sacramento office for his comment was not immediately returned.