Interdisciplinary Team Issues:
The anesthesiologist can stop the surgery, and may even have an ethical obligation to the patient to do so, but should take such action only after discussing several issues with the surgeon.
Case 2 Discussion
- Is the surgery in fact included in the consent?
- If not, is the surgery medically necessary at this moment (i.e., would delay place the
patient's life in significant danger) or can it be postponed until the patient can be
awakened and asked for consent?
If the surgery is not emergent, and there is no consent, the anesthesiologist is morally obliged to protect the patient's autonomy and right to give consent. Anesthesiologists have been also held legally liable for harm done to patients during elective surgery for which they did not consent, because the anesthesiologist renders the patient insensate and unable to protect themselves from unwanted intrusion.
Often, in a case like this one, consensus can be obtained from the health care team, which in this case could consult the hospital legal counsel and the hospital ethics committee prior to proceeding.
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