Informed consent and special procedures

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The legal doctrine of informed consent is not new; however, it has not been widely applied by physicians. Should it be widely used? The patient today is considerably more curious than his father or grandfather. The mass media have made the average American acutely aware of the possible complications and hazards in various procedures, and have repeatedly focused attention on medical malpractice. Informed consent has become an issue and, for this reason, it seems logical that a study of its application be made. The purpose of this communication is to point out the patient’s reaction to informed consent and to help the physician who is contemplating its use to understand his patient and exchange information with him.

Informing a patient of complications which might occur as a result of special procedures is often a thorny problem. The physician has a legal responsibility to obtain an informed consent before undertaking a procedure which carries serious risk. However, many physicians regard the task as disagreeable, time-consuming, and likely to make the patient apprehensive. Questions which arise immediately are: What information should be given the patient? How should it be presented? To what extent should the physician pursue the issue to be certain that his patient is truly giving an informed consent? Will the patient refuse because of the information he has received?

In a preliminary report in May 1971, most patients about to undergo arteriography reacted favorably to knowledge of possible complications associated with the procedure.1 Specifically, 89% of 232 considered this . . .



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