Friday, September 26, 2014

Informed Consent is a Chimera

This post by Paul Levy got me thinking about informed consent, and a case I saw recently got me to take a little time and write about an issue frequently ignored in medical school.

A bit of background for non-medical readers: Informed Consent is a term in medicine for when doctors get the agreement of the patient to do something to said patient.  For example, before a patient is cut open for surgery, the patient has to say "yes I want to be cut open and have _____ happen".  Less extreme examples abound- the patient has to consent to anything from a blood draw for a lab test to a CT scan.  Part of informed consent is that the patient has to be "informed".  It is acceptable for a patient to say "tell me nothing, just do it", but the patient has to be offered information regarding their disease as well as the risks and benefits of the procedure they are consenting to.  For example, "This x-ray will tell us whether or not you have pneumonia or something else, but may slightly increase your risk of cancer in the long run.  I recommend you get it.  Do you agree?"