When prepping for a surgical operation, there are several steps to take and decisions to make prior to going under the knife. A doctor or other medical professional may have recommended the surgery as a treatment for a condition or injury, but there could be other medical professionals involved in the process along the way. While this is not only unavoidable and necessary, each medical professional has a specific role to play. The highest Pennsylvania court has issued a ruling concerning the role of medical professionals and obtaining consent.
Patient consent is something that must be given prior to surgery. However, in many situations, a nurse or physicians assistant has been ordered to take over all or a portion of the informed consent process. However, the highest court ruled that this is not appropriate and only the physician performing the procedure should be involved in the discussions with patients about whether to have surgery, the risks, and the alternatives. This means that any surgery in Pennsylvania should require the doctor performing the surgery to obtain consent from their patients to help avoid surgical accidents.
This case came about when a woman claimed that the physicians assistant who informed her of several alternatives and risks associated with a brain surgery failed to inform her of one alternative to the surgery that she had undergone. She was severely injured due to the procedure and alleged that she had not been properly informed about the less-risky alternative to her surgery. The judge ruled in her favor, but a separate trial will now be needed to assess any damages owed to the injured plaintiff. According to this decision, doctors in Pennsylvania should be briefing patients personally to obtain consent.
While it takes a team of people to care and treat patients, certain jobs should be left for the most qualified, including the surgery and also the consent process. While assistants and nurses can be extremely necessary to the process, they may not be best suited to deliver certain information or perform certain tasks. This decision sets a precedent in terms of medical malpractice cases in the state and across the nation.
Source: medscape.com, “A Major Court Decision: Only Physicians Can Obtain Consent,” Carolyn Buppert, September 18, 2017