Skip to main content

Incarcerated patients frequently require surgery outside of the correctional setting, where they can be shackled to the operating table in the presence of armed corrections officers who observe them throughout the procedure. In this circumstance, privacy protection—central to the patient-physician relationship—and the need to control the incarcerated patient for the safety of health care workers, corrections officers, and society must be balanced. Surgeons recognize the heightened need for gaining a patient’s trust within the context of an operation. For an anesthetized patient, undergoing an operation while shackled and observed by persons in positions of power is a violation of patient privacy that can lead to increased feelings of vulnerability, mistrust of health care professionals, and reduced therapeutic potential of a procedure.