April 21, 2024

Informed consent process often mired in paperwork

Despite elaborate protocols to ensure that patients have given informed consent to surgery, too often it is just a formality, writes Judy Foreman in the Buffalo News. Legally, doctors and hospitals are required to inform patients of risks, benefits and alternatives before they consent to a procedure. But many patients are told to read forms they do not understand or given a pen when they have already been medicated in the minutes before an operation. This is the natural outcome when the ideals of informed consent get reduced to creating a paper trail for medico-legal and bureaucratic reasons,” says Dr Lachlan Forrow, an ethicist at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston.

After a review of 42 studies of the informed consent process, Dr Ezekiel Emanuel, of the National Institutes of Health, says that the best way to improve the informed consent process is increasing face-time with a doctor or nurse”.