2nd Opinion
25 August 2016
by Dr. Lars Aanning

Photo is of his burning his American College of Surgeons membership certificate after they revoked his membership for writing what follows in his weekly column.

A Surgeon’s Belated Confession

During a recent malpractice trial, several physicians testified under oath for the defense and told the jurors that the defendant surgeon “did everything right,” and was innocent of any charges of negligence or malpractice. These physicians all work in the same clinic with the defendant, share the same patients as well as their charts, and all go through the same doors and hallways. So I was not surprised.

In a similar malpractice trial about 15 years ago, I found myself testifying on behalf of a surgeon whose patient suffered a severe postoperative complication that resulted in permanent disability. I had never been on the stand before as a defendant witness. But I had no problem with joining in and accepting the defense mantra that no negligence or breach of “standard of care” had occurred, and that the surgeon had “done everything right.” I wasn’t going to be a squealer – fat chance.

But from that very moment I knew I had lied – lied under oath – and violated all my pledges of professionalism that came with the Doctor Of Medicine degree and memberships in several surgical societies. I had prostituted myself to the fiduciary constraints of my employment contract with the clinic and its physician owners: “Employee agrees to devote his full time and best efforts to the practice and affairs of his Employer…”

In essence, no supporting testimony from a defendant physician’s colleagues can ever be deemed trustworthy, truthful, or true – because those colleagues have essentially sworn an oath of loyalty to each other: “My colleagues will be as my brothers!” Breaching that trust would brand a colleague as a whistle-blower, a virtual has-been, and permanently mark him as a betrayer – with retirement or relocation the only viable outcomes.

Bottom line: Loyalty, zeal, and self-sacrifice, demanded by most physicians’ employment contracts, should be recognized by the legal system as barriers to honest testimony by a physician’s colleagues, even if sworn on the Bible. Harmed patients seeking legal redress and jurors in a malpractice trial should be aware of this behavior – and the legal system should never allow such charades.



The American College of Surgeons deleted Lars Aanning MD from its membership after learning he had written the above piece, “A Surgeon’s Belated Confession,” in his weekly newspaper column called “2nd Opinion.” To celebrate this momentous achievement, Dr. Aanning ceremoniously burnt his certificate and returned the remnants to the College…

Prior to that his column had motivated the South Dakota Board of Medical and Osteopathic Examiners to find him exceptionably endowed with “moral turpitude in undermining the public’s trust in the medical profession.” A unanimous decision by their physician Board members invalidated his license to practice “for the good of all mankind”…. After that, driving a another nail into his professional coffin, they nominated Dr. Aanning for eternal membership in the National Practitioner Data Bank, the repository of data recording the malfeasance of members of the medical profession.

Climbing onto the bandwagon, the American Medical Association (AMA) reviewed his column and their Ethics Committee censured him.

Dr. Aanning’s response: “Haven’t practiced since 2011, so I’m pleased these organizations will continue to promote health care that is both safe and effective – and to protect all patients from incredibly disruptive surgeons such as myself!”…

(Editor’s note: As other examples on this site show, in medicine you get censured for reporting, not for failing or refusing to report. See Loyalty)


The retired Dr. Lars Aanning has strong and active Norwegian roots, lives in Yankton, South Dakota where he writes about his experiences, and cites Jonathan Swift and George Carlin as among his favorites. A list of other articles of his can be found at this link.