A Survey of Healthcare Industry Representative Participation in Surgical Cases

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Publication Date


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Journal of Clinical Ethics









To provide preliminary evidence of the types and amount of involvement by healthcare industry representatives (HCIRs) in surgery, as well as the ethical concerns of those representatives.


A link to an anonymous, web-based survey was posted on several medical device boards of the website http://www. cafepharma.com. Additionally, members of two different medical device groups on LinkedIn were asked to participate. Respondents were self-identified HCIRs in the fields of orthopedics, cardiology, endoscopic devices, lasers, general surgery, ophthalmic surgery, oral surgery, anesthesia products, and urologic surgery.


A total of 43 HCIRs replied to the survey over a period of one year: 35 men and eight women. Respondents reported attending an average of 184 surgeries in the prior year and had an average of 17 years as an HCIR and six years with their current employer. Of the respondents, 21 percent (nine of 43) had direct physical contact with a surgical team or patient during a surgery, and 88 percent (38 of 43) provided verbal instruction to a surgical team during a surgery. Additionally, 37 percent (16 of 43) had participated in a surgery in which they felt that their involvement was excessive, and 40 percent (17 of 43) had attended a surgery in which they questioned the competence of the surgeon.


HCIRs play a significant role in surgery. Involvement that exceeds their defined role, however, can raise serious ethical and legal questions for surgeons and surgical teams. Surgical teams may at times be substituting the knowledge of the HCIR for their own competence with a medical device or instrument. In some cases, contact with the surgical team or patient may violate the guidelines not only of hospitals and medical device companies, but the law as well. Further study is required to determine if the patients involved have any knowledge or understanding of the role that an HCIR played in their surgery.