AANA President Sharon Pearce’s Response to Consumer Reports

December 2, 2014
Letter to the Editor:
Despite having a reputation for being thorough, unbiased, and data-driven, Consumer Reports did a grave disservice to healthcare consumers and Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetists (CRNAs) with the inaccurate and misleading information about anesthesia providers published in the Nov. 29 article “Is outpatient surgery safe?”
Dr. Avitzur’s unsupportable position that “for deep sedation, or general anesthesia, an anesthesiologist who’s a physician (not a nurse) should always oversee your care…” is particularly galling for two reasons: 1) The reference to the tragic death of comedienne Joan Rivers in the very same article, and 2) the proliferation of published data that supports the polar opposite of Dr. Avitzur’s statement.
First, with regard to the Rivers case, the fact is the anesthesia provider for her ill-fated routine procedure actually was a physician anesthesiologist, according to the 11/10/14 Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) report on the case. CMS noted that the biggest error contributing to Rivers’ death was that her physicians “failed to identify deteriorating vital signs and provide timely intervention during the procedure.” Shame on Consumer Reports for apparently lazy research that failed to uncover this important piece of information and for publishing Dr. Avitzur’s ill-advised and unsubstantiated position!
Second, since 2000 no fewer than five landmark research studies have confirmed that anesthesia care provided by CRNAs is as safe as care provided by anesthesiologists. Most notable is the 2010 study “No Harm Found When Nurse Anesthetists Work Without Supervision by Physicians,” published in Health Affairs, the nation’s leading health policy journal. No research published in the same timespan supports the statement made by Dr. Avitzur.
Consumer Reports proudly serves notice on its website that “across everything we do, Consumer Reports unites impartial, trustworthy guidance with nearly eight decades of unwavering commitment to helping consumers make informed decisions.” Dr. Avitzur’s conjecture does nothing to help consumers make informed decisions. Therefore, it would be appropriate for Consumer Reports to remove Dr. Avitzur’s statement from the website and from the print edition due out in January 2015, and offer an apology to both the consumers who were misled and the CRNAs who were offended.
Sharon P. Pearce, CRNA, MSN
American Association of Nurse Anesthetists