Contributor: Michael Zhen-Yu Tong, MD
Not so long ago, informed consent meant that a physician simply explained to his or her patient what a reasonable person would want to know about a procedure.
The physician — or sometimes a nurse — would tell a patient what the surgery was and then hand him or her a piece of paper to sign. There really was no discussion.
Today, informed consent is so much more. It still gives a physician the opportunity to talk to patients about what will happen during a procedure. But it includes patient questions and a checklist of specific topics. There also is a form for patients to sign at the end of the discussion.
Informed consent as a practice protects patient and physician by ensuring that for every surgery, these topics are covered so the patient fully understands:
It’s important to understand that the informed consent discussion also is a chance for you the patient to ask any and all questions you may have.
If you so desire, it’s a good time as well for your family members to get the answers they need.
This is a two-way conversation. I tell patients what I think they want to know, while patients help me understand what they want to know.
You should feel comfortable with your decision to have the surgery and leave the discussion with the knowledge to make that decision.
Everyone is different in terms of what level of knowledge makes them feel comfortable about surgery. Some patients want to know every detail about the surgery from beginning to end. Others want to know less and want their family to know more.
Your doctor should discuss your procedure with you to the level that you and your family want to know and to the level that makes you feel comfortable and knowledgeable about your decision.
So what can you do to make the informed consent discussion a good one?
Remember that you should walk away with a solid understanding of your treatment plan, and what to expect before, during, and after surgery.