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Have you had unnecessary surgery?

There is a lot of coverage in the press and on the news at the moment surrounding the care of thousands of female patients and the cancer treatment that they may have had unnecessarily. This is a worrying discovery. As the story about the surgeon who allegedly mistreated a number of breast cancer patients emerges, the Daily Telegraph reports on the general position regarding unnecessary surgical procedures taking place every day in the UK.

On 9th November 2012 the Daily Telegraph highlights the fact that many doctors do not tell their patients what possible pitfalls there are to the surgical procedure that patient is consenting for. The trust of the medical profession is such that a patient consents to surgery that is considered best for them by the consultant to whom they are referred. The recent discovery of the breast cancer surgeon has highlighted the fact that the surgeon does not always know best.

The article in the Daily Telegraph suggests that when guidance is given to patients about the surgical procedure that they are about to have, they are not adequately informed of all the possible risks. This includes, when a general anaesthetic is required, the risk of death. The Daily Telegraph uses an example that when men are offered prostate surgery for relief of urinary problems, 40% of them will go on to refuse surgery if they are advised that the operation may cause impotence. You can find a link to the story published in the Daily Telegraph here: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/health/healthnews/9665066/Doctors-not-telling-patients-the-pitfalls-of-surgery.html

An important factor of proceeding with surgery is the patient’s lifestyle and what they considered to be important to that lifestyle. The report quotes Dr Clare Gerada, Chairman of the Royal College of General Practitioners. She says that “Shared decision making improves outcomes and reduces the rate of operations….But the problem nowadays is the NHS is so driven by activity that we sometimes forget the patient”.. This leads us to question does the Doctor really know best? We believe that consent for surgery is a vital step in the whole treatment process. A patient has the right to know what possible complications and side affects can stem from the surgery they are about to have. They also have the right to make an informed choice as to whether they want to proceed with that surgery or not. Without knowing all the pitfalls a patient can never make that informed choice.

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