July 1986

Who Is Captain of the Anesthesia Ship?

Author Affiliations

Gainesville, Fla

Arch Surg. 1986;121(7):753. doi:10.1001/archsurg.1986.01400070019002

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Many surgeons prefer to limit their practices to their specialties, whereas others maintain they should control the anesthetic management of their patients as well. The question of which of these practices should be preferred by surgeons has been discussed in the past primarily on emotional grounds that have to do with the idea of being captain of the ship. The concept that the surgeon is captain of the ship has come under attack from two directions; one is the debate among physicians, and the other is the forces of our legal system. The latter force requires examination.

When a lawsuit is filed by a patient alleging negligent anesthetic care, few surgeons want to assume responsibility for the alleged wrongdoing and would rather defer to an anesthesiologist. While the medical liability for anesthetic management is determined by the courts on an individual basis, there are several scenarios to contemplate. Each likely

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