Hurley v. Kirk

The main issue on certiorari review was whether the doctrine of informed consent required a physician to obtain the patient's consent before using a non-doctor to perform significant portions of a surgery for which the physician was engaged to perform thereby subjecting the patient to a heightened risk of injury. Dr. Mary Kirk, Dana Hurley's gynecologist, recommended Hurley undergo a total laparoscopic hysterectomy. Hurley agreed and Dr. Kirk scheduled the operation. In coordinating the surgery, Dr. Kirk specifically requested Art Bowen to assist with the operation. At the time of Dr. Kirk's request, Bowen had previously assisted Dr. Kirk in approximately 40 to 50 cases of which 90 percent were hysterectomies. Bowen, however, was neither Dr. Kirk's nor the hospital's employee. Bowen worked completely under the supervision and guidance of the employing surgeon. There was conflicting evidence as to whom, Dr. Kirk or Bowen, caused Hurley's injury. Dr. Kirk denied Bowen injured Hurley's right ureter despite her concession that Bowen performed the right side of the hysterectomy with the harmonic scalpel. Yet, Bowen's initial discovery response indicated Bowen's admission that he caused the injury. Both Dr. Kirk and Bowen conceded, however, that Bowen used the harmonic scalpel to cauterize and cut the round ligament, utero ovarian pedicle, broad ligament, and uterine artery. After reviewing the record in this case, the Oklahoma Supreme Court found that under Oklahoma's full disclosure rule, a physician must disclose and obtain the patient's informed consent. The Court reemphasized that full disclosure of all material risks incident to treatment must be made. "As such, no physician has carte blanche to delegate any or all tasks to a non-doctor. To hold otherwise, would obliterate a patient's freedom of choice and reinstate the paternalistic approach to medicine this Court rejected." The scope of the duty to inform is broad enough to include a physician's duty to inform the patient "who" will be performing significant portions of the procedure or surgical tasks. The Court of the Civil Appeals' opinion was vacated and the district court's summary judgment order was reversed as to all issues. This matter was remanded for further proceedings. View "Hurley v. Kirk" on Justia Law