Why surgeons can say "No": Exploring "Unilateral Withholding"

Link to article at PubMed

Why surgeons can say "No": Exploring "Unilateral Withholding"

J Hosp Med. 2011 Dec 21;

Authors: Manthous CA, Ivy M

OBJECTIVE: To explore why it is permissible for surgeons to "unilaterally withhold" surgery, whereas it is not commonplace (in the United States) to unilaterally withhold cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) for clinical situations with similar degrees of uncertainty and prognosis. DATA SOURCES: The medical literature was sampled using PubMed and Google search engines, employing a variety of search strategies to capture articles relating to medical/surgical decision-making, risk aversion, acute care surgery, and withholding life-saving therapies. These topics are used to highlight interprovider variability that affects all practitioners-not just surgeons-and to consider why we deem it permissible for surgeons to withhold surgery, whereas-in the United States, at least-it is not routinely permissible for clinicians to unilaterally withhold mechanical ventilation and CPR for cases with similar prognoses. CONCLUSIONS: While there are no published research studies that deal directly with this topic, knowledge, heuristics, experience, variable aversion to risk, and other features inherent in medical-surgical education likely impact decisions to offer or withhold potentially life-saving therapies of all kinds. Both surgeons and clinicians, who request surgical consultation for hospitalized patients, should consider these issues and politely pursue second opinions when there is any doubt whether forgoing surgery is in the patient's best interests. Similarly, while unilateral withholding of CPR is not commonly employed in some medical cultures, including the United States, beneficence can be facilitated through robust informed consent. Journal of Hospital Medicine 2012; © 2011 Society of Hospital Medicine.

PMID: 22223480 [PubMed - as supplied by publisher]

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