In Practice

Postoperative care: From a legal point of view, whose responsibility is it?

David Jan McQuoid-Mason


An ear, nose and throat surgeon recently asked if anyone else would be responsible postoperatively for removing a patient’s throat pack that had been negligently left in place by the anaesthetist. Generally, members of the operating or treatment team such as anaesthetists, surgeons and circulating nurses are not legally liable for one another’s negligent acts or omissions in theatre or postoperatively. However, in situations where one or both of the other members of the team could have directly intervened to prevent harm to a patient and failed to do so, such team members could have legal liability imposed on them as joint wrongdoers, e.g. where a throat pack is negligently left in a patient by an anaesthetist.

Author's affiliations

David Jan McQuoid-Mason, Centre for Socio-Legal Studies, University of KwaZulu-Natal, Durban, South Africa

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Postoperative care; Throat pack; Standard of care; Independent contractors; Joint liabliity

Cite this article

South African Medical Journal 2016;106(9):874-876. DOI:10.7196/SAMJ.2016.v106i9.11082

Article History

Date submitted: 2016-05-23
Date published: 2016-08-02

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