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Mistaken Surgery

While the consent of an individual patient to medical treatment is the responsibility of the treating physician, the monitoring of consent is an important part of the quality control program. Consent should be checked before surgery to ensure that there has been no confusion of patients. Performing the wrong surgery on a patient is not easily justifiable, and checking the consent form is good insurance against this type of mistake.

The importance of preventing mistaken surgery mitigates against the use of oral consent for surgical procedures. The hospital will share liability for mistaken surgery because it is the hospital's employees (nurses and orderlies) who prepare the patient for surgery and actually deliver the patient to surgery. Because of this shared liability, the hospital must demand written consent to surgery. This consent should at least describe the intended surgery so that the hospital personnel can determine if the patient is being prepared for the proper operation.


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