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Implications for Australian anaesthetists and proceduralists of a recent court decision regarding informed consent and patient positioning
journal contributionposted on 2014-01-01, 00:00 authored by D Breen, Patrick David Mahar, L Batty, J Rosenfeld
This article discusses the medicolegal implications of a recent judgment in relation to a patient who suffered significant morbidity as a result of patient positioning during an operative procedure. The patient developed an unexpected serious complication following surgery, in the context of a preoperative consent that did not cover every potential complication or contingency. The court held that the failure to warn of a particular risk that would have prevented the patient from undergoing a procedure but did not occur will not necessarily result in a finding of negligence in relation to another risk where the harm did occur. This finding is well aligned to current clinical practice and at the same time does not abrogate the practitioner's duty to provide a comprehensive list of possible complications during the consent process for any proceduralist. In the context of a procedure requiring anaesthesia, the importance of communication and understanding between the anaesthetist and proceduralist as to which aspects of the consent process are undertaken by whom, and to ensure the process is done comprehensively, is of great importance and is indirectly highlighted by this recent judgment.