Consultation for Simple Laceration Repair When On-Call in the Emergency Department: Potential Quagmire

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What are the forces obligating a plastic surgeon who is on-call for the emergency department to respond to a consultation request for repair of a simple laceration? Although the duties are clear in cases of obvious surgical emergency, ambiguity and subsequent conflict may arise when the true nature of the emergency is less clear. Does the consultant’s clinical discretion dictate the obligation in the case of a simple laceration; or is it subservient to either the discretion of the requesting health-care provider or even the patient? Do federal statutes such as the Emergency Medical Treatment and Labor Act, or perhaps more local rules apply, such as the by-laws of the hospital? It would behoove all medical practitioners to familiarize themselves with both the legal and moral implications of these issues. Having legitimate policies in place which actively address those situations where the consultative obligation is unclear is critical to resolve potential conflict.

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