Ethics and surgical innovation: Challenges to the professionalism of surgeons

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The future of surgical progress depends on surgeons finding innovative solutions to their patients' problems. Surgical innovation is critical to advances in surgery. However, surgical innovation also raises a series of ethical issues that challenge the professionalism of surgeons. The very criteria for defining surgical progress have changed as patients may value more than simply reductions in morbidity and mortality. The requirement for informed consent prior to surgery is difficult when an innovative surgical procedure is planned since the risks of the novel operation may not be known. In addition, even if the risks are known in the hands of the innovator, the actual risks to patients when surgeons are learning the new technique are unknown. New techniques often depend on new technology which may be significantly more expensive than traditional techniques. There are no clear criteria to decide which new innovative techniques are going to turn out to be truly beneficial to patients. Many surgical innovations depend on new products which may have been developed as collaborative efforts between surgical device companies and surgeons. Although many currently accepted therapies were developed in this fashion, the collaboration of surgeons and device companies raises the potential for significant harmful conflicts of interest. In the decades to come, careful attention to these and other ethical issues will help to define the future professional standing of surgeons. © 2013 Elsevier Ltd and Surgical Associates Ltd.




Angelos, P. (2013). Ethics and surgical innovation: Challenges to the professionalism of surgeons. International Journal of Surgery. Elsevier Ltd.

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