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Understanding the basics of informed consent

If you have ever undergone surgery or have been subject to any other significant medical treatment, you have likely been compelled to sign a form indicating that you have given your informed consent for the procedure or treatment. Like many Americans, you may have not given this form much thought. Your mind was likely focused primarily on the procedure or treatment in question and issues involving your health.

Not giving medical forms much thought is both normal and understandable. After all, if you need treatment you likely feel that you have little choice but to sign whatever form is placed in front of you. However, it is important for you to understand the basics of informed consent before you sign any other similar form in the future.

Every state in the union requires physicians to obtain informed consent from patients or their loved ones before submitting patients to significant procedures or treatments. Certainly, in emergency situations or under other special circumstances, signatures may either not be required or may be delayed. However, most often informed consent of patients, their caregivers or their immediate loved ones is required before medical procedures or treatments may be performed.

Just as you would likely avoid signing a contract without understanding its provisions, it is important that you and other patients avoid granting permission for treatments to be performed without understanding them.

What exactly is informed consent and why does this specific permission matter so greatly to the operation of medicine in the U.S.? Please check back with us as we will be continuing our discussion on this important topic in a future post.

Source: Findlaw Injured, “What is Informed Consent?” Le Trinh, June 18, 2015

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