Ethical Dilemmas in Global Plastic Surgery: Divergent Perspectives of Local and Visiting Surgeons.
Background: As more of the world's resources are directed toward improving patient access to safe surgical and anesthesia care, there is a growing concern that volunteer surgeons' "desire to help" has numerous unintended consequences. The purpose of this study was to ask in-country, local surgeons and visiting volunteer plastic surgeons about the frequency of ethical dilemmas for different types of global surgery collaborations and to assess their perception of compliance with the concepts of autonomy, beneficence, nonmaleficence, and justice.
Methods: A cross-sectional email survey tool was sent to a representative sample of domestic American Society of Plastic Surgeons members, all international members of the American Society of Plastic Surgeons, and international partners of the Volunteers in Plastic Surgery committee of the Plastic Surgery Foundation. The survey response rate was 7.7 percent, with 356 respondents from 65 countries.
Results: This survey data showed a statistically significant divergence of perspectives between local and visiting surgeons in regard to scope of practice, quality of patient care, impact on local health care systems, perception of the quality of care by local providers, the integrity of the informed consent process, and photography in global plastic surgery collaborations. Though the short-term mission trip model was particularly polarizing when comparing the responses of local and visiting surgeons, educational and research exchanges may also significantly interrupt local health care and incite ethical lapses.
Conclusions: This survey provides quantitative insight into the impact of current global plastic surgery collaborations and highlights ethical areas of disagreement between local and visiting surgeons.