Obtaining informed consent to administer anesthesia is both an ethical and legal obligation for physician anesthesiologists. Standards vary slightly across states, but most ethicists and lawyers agree that sufficient information for informed decision-making requires knowledge by the patient of material risks. Material risks generally include those that have a high frequency (e.g., postoperative nausea and dental damage) as well as those with a low frequency and high severity (e.g., awareness, stroke and death). The legal test for the completeness of the list of material risks required for informed consent is often based on the “professional practice standard” established in 1960 (Nathanson v. Klein) or the “reasonable person standard” established in 1972 (Canterbury v. Spence).

The professional practice standard states that the information for informed consent is sufficient if it includes what another physician in...

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