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Don't Mind The Sales Rep In The Operating Room

A hip replacement
Flickr Creative Commons
A hip replacement

Sales representatives for internal medical devices like knee and hip replacements can commonly be found assisting surgeons, unbeknownst to the patient.

The practice may be alarming to people about to undergo surgery. But Art Caplan, director of the Division of Medical Ethics at NYU Langone Medical Center, assured Boston Public Radio listeners on Wednesday not to worry.

“The people who sell the devices practice forever putting them in, understanding them, getting trained by the company as to how they work. The surgeons go to one class, but they aren’t spending forever learning the new device,” Caplan explained.

The rapid development of new medical devices makes it nearly impossible for surgeons to be proficient at installing them without some initial guidance from the device reps, according to Caplan. “I have no problem having these guys come in there and saying, ‘Look, buddy, that screw goes the other way,'" he said. “The device guys, who make the devices, really understand their technology very well.”

Despite their potential usefulness, Caplan believes that patients should still be told and provide consent for the reps to be part of their surgery: “I do agree that the patients don’t know they are going to be in there. That is to say, if they gave bad advice or screwed things up, you would kind of like to know why."

Listen to our interview with medical ethicist Art Caplan above.

Copyright 2016 GBH

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