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Minerva Cardioangiologica 2007 April;55(2):167-98


language: English

Symptomatic carotid stenosis. Diagnosis and treatment guidelines Juridical and medico-legal approach

Santovito D. 1, Iorio M. 2, Mastro F. 3, Conforti M. 1, Rispoli P. 1

1 Unit of Vascular Surgery Department of Medico-Surgical Disciplines University of Turin, Turin, Italy 2 Unit of Legal Medicine Department of Anatomy Pharmacology and Legal Medicine University of Turin, Turin, Italy 3 Lawyer, Turin, Italy


An increasing body of health care regulations and the growing concern of physicians and patients about health care services have sharpened the debate surrounding the concept of quality in medicine. Once unknown terms such as audit, peer review, accreditation, ISO 9000, quality assurance (QA), continuous quality improvement (CQI) and risk management have become more familiar but also less clear. Following recent reports, medical error has been cited as a result of a health care system that has not yet fully embraced the tenets of quality management. A clearer explanation of definitions, knowledge and procedures is therefore needed. In Italy, the general debate on surgical risk led to a proposal to implement control systems that would monitor the work of each team member in the operating room, from the patient’s arrival to transfer to the floor. But to understand the dynamics of doubtful cases, we need to start from new concepts that release the surgeon from the role of “high priest in the surgery temple.” Such concepts would underpin a process analysis of how much is effectively done and by whom. This means, on one hand, developing a greater awareness of one’s role and competences, and on the other, delineating the stages within which each health care professional is expected to operate. Entering into the debate are the guidelines scientific societies have drawn up to rationalise and improve health care delivery through recommendations directed at optimizing the efficacy and efficiency of surgical intervention as the result of scientific evaluation and clinical observation. However, the criticalities in question do not always allow the surgeon to work under a medico-legal “guarantee” that covers his medical conduct. Further-more, they can be a double-edged sword in court if not adequately considered and critically evaluated with regard to a specific case, the object of censure and charge. In fact, they can be ”exploited” as an instrument of accusation or defence in an arena where the mass media rush to blame the surgeon but later forget to duly report the acquittal of charges held against the surgeon. The present article examines the light and dark sides of guidelines, taking as an example those profiled by the Italian Society of Vascular and Endovascular Surgery and based on international guidelines for the treatment of symptomatic carotid stenosis.

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