What Is Informed Consent?
Informed consent is the permission granted by a patient to a doctor for treatment with full understanding and knowledge of the possible risks and benefits of the proposed procedure.
A patient needs to understand the risks, benefits, and alternatives of a proposed procedure or treatment in order to make an informed decision about the course of their health care.
Without the informed consent of a patient, a medical practitioner risks legal liability for a complication or adverse outcome even if it was not caused negligently.
For consent to be given voluntarily, it must be given without duress.
What Constitutes as Informed Consent?
- Consent must be given voluntarily.
- Consent must be given with an understanding of the risks involved in the proposed procedure.
- Consent must be given with an understanding of reasonable alternatives for the procedure.
- Consent should encompass the procedure to be performed.
- The patient must be legally competent to give consent to the procedure.
When Preparing to Make a Decision
- Make sure you gather all the information possible. Request reading material, such as pamphlets.
- Utilize the BRAIN acronym: benefits, risks, alternatives, your intuition, and requesting more needed time.
- Ask for clarification to ensure you understand all the information provided to make the best decision.
Informed consent is an extension of good communication techniques and helps establish doctor/patient rapport. Patients have a right to receive information and to participate in decisions affecting their health.
Questions to Ask
- What is the problem?
- What is the most likely cause?
- Why does my baby (or why do I) need this drug or procedure?
- How will this drug or procedure help my pregnancy/labor?
- Is this part of a study, a routine, merely for convenience, part of insurance guidelines – or a true emergency?
- What are the potential risks to me or to my baby?
- What are the known side effects or liabilities?
- Are there other options?
- What is the risk to me and my baby if I don’t take it or have it done?
- Will its benefits outweigh the side effects?
- What is my gut telling me?
As you ask yourself these questions, weigh the risks vs. the benefits. (All drugs and procedures have risks and benefits!) Feel free to ask for a moment alone to make your decision.
Use this Brain Acronym to gather information: B for benefits, R for risks, A for alternatives, I for your intuition, and N for requesting more needed time. The more information you gather, the more prepared and confident you will be to listen to your intuition and make the best decision for you and your baby.
Making a Decision
It is important that you feel you have received adequate information in order to make the best decision for you and your family. You should not feel rushed or pressured to make any particular decision. Ensure that you take your time and digest all the information you have received. Once you arrive at this place, go ahead and make your decision – and give your informed consent – with peace and confidence.