Volume 23, Number 1, Spring 2012
Anesthesiological Ethics: Can Informed Consent Be Implied?
Jeffrey P. Spike
The Journal of Clinical Ethics 23, no. 1 (Spring 2012): 68-70.
Surgical ethics is a well-recognized field in clinical ethics, distinct from medical ethics. It includes at least a dozen important issues common to surgery that do not exist in internal medicine simply because of the differences in their practices. But until now there has been a tendency to include ethical issues of anesthesiology as a part of surgical ethics. This may mask the importance of ethical issues in anesthesiology, and even help perpetuate an unfortunate view that surgeons are “captain of the ship” in the operating theater (leaving anesthesiologists in a subservient role.
We will have a better ethical understanding if we see surgery and anesthesia as two equal partners, ethically as well as in terms of patient care. Informed consent is one such issue, but it is not limited to that. Even on the topic of what type of anesthesia to use, anesthesiologists have often felt subsumed to the surgeon’s preferences. This commentary takes the case study and uses it as a exemplar for this very claim: it is time to give due recognition for a new field in clinical ethics, ethics in anesthesia.