Performing A Procedure Without Patient Consent

Check this out. What you will see is a continuation of yesterday’s riff on our Consent Culture and Bodily Autonomy. Yesterday’s bottom line was that in order to avoid traumatic surprise to the patient, physicians should make it a point to inform the patient about what needs to be done, and then wait for the green light. 

But today’s version is a little different. The question before the house today is whether a physician who has patient consent to do one diagnostic procedure can do another one that the first procedure revealed to be necessary. The kicker is that the patient is sedated while this decision is being made. What is the ethical thing to do? Proceed, since the second procedure is a related one, or hold off until all the paperwork is signed, meaning that the patient will need to be sedated again.

This Gastroenterologist proceeded, and found the problem the patient had authorized him to look for, although not where he was authorized to look. All’s well that ends well, although it should be noted that the medical malpractice attorneys would doubtless have had a field day if something had gone wrong during the second procedure.  

Bottom Line. SO. Yesterday’s guideline of “Always inform the patient and get permission in advance” clearly has some limitations. And that’s the way things work in medicine.  

And in life!

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