Ethel Easter didn’t think hernia surgery would be fun, but she had no idea what was going to happen when she went under anesthesia, so she hid a tape recorder in her hair, according to The Root. When she went to see a surgeon about having a surgical mesh hernia repair, she burst into tears when the Houston, Texas surgeon told her that he could not operate for two more months because he was booked up. She told him she was in too much pain, she said.
“I can’t wait that long; I’m terribly ill.”
She then says the surgeon took on a brusque attitude with her and said she was no different than other patients.
“Who do you think you are? You have to wait just like everybody else.”
Because of his demeanor, she felt something was not right, but decided to go ahead with surgery anyway, Easter said. Easter, who is African American, was wearing what she referred to as a “weave” at the time, and when she put her hair up the morning of surgery, she stuck a small recording device in her hair braids so she could hear what was being said while she was being operated on. Nobody else was aware, to her knowledge, that it was there.
When she awakened from surgery, she was shocked to hear what she called the surgeon and staff making fun of her and making “derogatory remarks” about her body while she was under anesthesia. When she clicked on the recorder, the first thing she heard was people laughing and talking about her, she said. She said the surgeon told the whole operating staff that she wasn’t pleasant to work with.
“She’s a handful; she had some choice words for us in the clinic when we didn’t book her case in two weeks.”
She said he then mimicked her in a voice stated that she would hire an attorney, which is unknown if she ever stated to the surgeon.
“‘I’m going to call a lawyer and file a complaint.'”
She said that there was laughter in the operating room, and a male voice said, “That doesn’t seem like a smart thing to tell someone who is going to do your surgery.”
Easter also said she heard a female voice speaking in disgust about her body, saying, “Look at her belly button.”
A male staff member then referred to her as “Precious,” which Easter took to be a connotation from a movie about a morbidly obese woman who suffers from abuse and incest.
“Precious, as though I was this big, fat, black woman.”
She said the staff also called her “the queen” and had a few more laughing remarks at her expense. This is not the first time a patient has recorded a surgical staff while they were under anesthesia, but community activist Quanell X voiced shock over the tape.
“When I heard the comments on the tape and listened to them I was shocked. I had no idea that doctors, anesthesiologists and nurses would carry themselves in this manner in an operating room.”
Physicians and nurses do take oaths to uphold ethical treatment of patients, including their psychological well-being. The hospital may have certain guidelines in place as well that forbid such behavior among doctors and nurses, even when the patient is under anesthesia.
The hospital and surgeon did not immediately comment on the case, stating Ethel Easter’s confidentiality was top priority. It is not known at this time what legal damages, if any, Easter will be seeking. Fortunately, there were no problems with her surgery, which she is recovering from.
[Photo by Adam Berry/Getty Images]