SPOKANE, Wash. -

The chief of surgery at Spokane's VA Medical Center has been suspended and is under investigation for possible misconduct for potentially conducting surgeries without patient consent.

Dr. James Lovett is suspected of conducting surgery without having patients sign patient consent forms, which are supposed to be signed before heading into surgery.

The form formally advises a patient of the risk of your surgery, that something might go wrong during the procedure and that the procedure might not necessarily correct your medical condition. It provides the individual with informed consent for the medical procedure, one of the most important rights as a patient.

Lovett has been the chief of surgery at Spokane's VA Medical Center for approximately three years now and, according to sources, boosted the hospital's ability to provide a higher level of surgical services.

However, this investigation got its start as Lovett was preparing to perform one of those surgeries. According to a KXLY source close the investigation, a patient had been sent up to the surgical suite when nurses noticed the patient, who's a veteran, had not signed his consent form for the operation.

KXLY's source said that Lovett asked the nurses to refresh their computer screen and the form suddenly was signed. The nurses found that odd because the patient that needed to do the signing was standing right behind them.

The nurses went to their union president who reported the incident to the hospital administration. The Inspector General's office was called and now their investigators are looking at the consent signatures on other surgeries assigned to Lovett.

The Veterans Administration released the following statement on the case:

"[T]he safety of our veteran patients is always top priority of the VA Medical Center. The VA is committed to providing quality health care to all veterans. Recent allegations raised are under active investigation. Appropriate actions will be taken when the investigation is complete. We embrace a culture where all employees are encouraged to report patient safety and quality issues to senior leaders. We are unable to comment any further at this time."

Lovett could not be located for comment and calls to his former practice in Nevada were not returned.