Informed consent in spinal surgery

Informed consent in spinal surgery
V. Todd, N. C. Birch
The Bone & Joint Journal, 31 March 2019; 101B(4) pp 355-360
Informed consent is a very important part of surgical treatment. In this paper, we report a number of legal judgements in spinal surgery where there was no criticism of the surgical procedure itself. The fault that was identified was a failure to inform the patient of alternatives to, and material risks of, surgery, or overemphasizing the benefits of surgery. In one case, there was a promise that a specific surgeon was to perform the operation, which did not ensue. All of the faults in these cases were faults purely of the consenting process. In many cases, the surgeon claimed to have explained certain risks to the patient but was unable to provide proof of doing so. We propose a checklist that, if followed, would ensure that the surgeon would take their patients through the relevant matters but also, crucially, would act as strong evidence in any future court proceedings that the appropriate discussions had taken place. Although this article focuses on spinal surgery, the principles and messages are applicable to the whole of orthopaedic surgery.

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