Case and Commentary
Oct 1999

The Ethics of "Ghost" Surgery

Audiey Kao, MD, PhD
Virtual Mentor. 1999;1(2):8. doi: 10.1001/virtualmentor.1999.1.2.hlaw1-9910.


George G, a patient complaining of low back pain radiating into his left leg with numbness and tingling of his left foot, consulted Dr. Quimby, a surgeon. Dr. Quimbly recommended that Mr. G undergo corrective surgery. Dr. Quimbly informed Mr. G about risks associated with anesthesia, but did not discuss risk associated with drop foot. Before anesthesia was administered, a nurse came in and handed Mr. G a form, "Consent to Operation, Anesthetics, and Special Procedures." After the surgery, Mr. G developed a drop foot, and Dr. Quimbly recommended that he undergo additional surgery. Mr. G wanted a second opinion and requested his medical records. He learned that because Dr. Quimbly did not arrive on time to perform the surgery, another surgeon had performed the procedure. Mr. G was very upset that Dr. Quimbly had not performed the surgery and that a "ghost surgeon" had been substituted.

Question for Discussion

May a "ghost surgeon" be substituted when the treating surgeon is unavailable?


See what the AMA Code of Medical Ethics says about this topic in Opinion 8.16 Substitution of surgeon without patient's knowledge or consent. American Medical Association. Code of Medical Ethics 1998-1999 Edition. Chicago, IL: American Medical Association; 1998.


Virtual Mentor. 1999;1(2):8.



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