A doctor sexting during surgery. In the history of bad medical practices, that's a new one. But sexting, and other acts of "moral turpitude" are exactly the charges facing 47-year-old Seattle anesthesiologist Arthur K. Zilberstein, whose license was suspended Monday by the state of Washington's Medical Quality Assurance Commission.
But sexting — the practice of sending text messages containing sexually explicit language or images — is only one of the accusations facing Zilberstein, who stands accused of "moral turpitude" and endangering patient safety in numerous cases between April and August of last year.
He is accused of sending the sexting messages during a wide variety of surgical procedures, including Caesarian section births and appendectomies performed on children, during which his "preoccupation with sexual matters" put the well-being of patients in jeopardy, the state said.
Zilberstein, the investigation found, also sent "selfies" to a patient in which he exposed his genitals and accompanied the images with sexually suggestive text.
The state panel charges that on a single day, July 17, when Zilberstein performed anesthesia on patients in seven separate surgeries, the doctor sent at least 64 text messages, many of which contained sexual content.
Some of the text messages were sent in rapid-fire succession, including one message in which Zilberstein informed the recipient of his message, "I'm hella busy with C sections."
During one procedure during which a probe was inserted into the heart of a cardiac patient, Zilberstein, according to the accusations, sent 26 text messages including many of an explicit sexual nature.
In one text exchange, he invited his girlfriend to the hospital, telling her in no uncertain terms how badly he wanted to have sex with her. And in the course of one patient's stomach surgery, he exchanged 45 messages, many of them "sexting."
"Respondent's [i.e. Zilberstein's] lack of focus on patient care while providing anesthesia services for hospital-based surgical procedures routinely fell below the standard of care and put patients at unreasonable risk of harm," said the state commission in a written statement announcing the suspension of Zilberstein's license to practice medicine.
Zilberstein was also hit with accusations of having sexual relations with a patient, engaging in sex at his workplace, and that he "improperly accessed medical-record imaging for sexual gratification."
He also made racist remarks to a patient in one incident, the state's investigation found, and issued 29 unauthorized drug prescriptions.
Zilberstein has been in practice since 1995. He worked as an anesthesiologist at Swedish Medical Center in Seattle — though he was not an employee of the facility, which immediately banned him on Monday.
The accused sexting doctor could not be reached by local media for comment, but he has 20 days to respond to the state panel's accusations.