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Kennedy Inst Ethics J. 1992 Sep;2(3):217-31.

Ethical considerations surrounding first time procedures: a study and analysis of patient attitudes toward spinal taps by students.


A patient is not always told when a student is performing a procedure for the first time. Withholding this information is a form of deception. It is justified on paternalistic grounds (it is in the patient's interest not to know), or on public policy grounds (given the choice, patients would refuse, thus compromising the training of future physicians). Using the spinal tap procedure (lumbar puncture) as a paradigm, 173 patients were surveyed to determine how they felt about first time procedures by medical students, interns, and residents. The patients indicated that they would be willing to be the subject for a student's (52%), intern's (62%), or resident's (66%) first spinal tap. This paper reassesses the ethics of consent for first time procedures based on responses to this survey.

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