Informed Consent For Elective Surgeries -How Important is it

The dictionary meaning of consent is “agreement or acceptance or giving permission” to some activity. Similarly, in the world of medical health, this very consent forms the crux of several ethical responsibilities that the medical practitioner has towards his or her patients. Informed consent is the process of giving the patient complete information regarding the kind of treatment or process going to be undertaken for that particular patient and then taking his consent over proceeding with the same. It means that the patient must be competent enough to completely understand the process, the goal, and the reach in addition to the risks involved in the treatment or surgery that the practitioner is planning for him or her and voluntarily accept it by signing the physical agreement form.

Informed consent covers a wide field including research-based studies, treatments, surgeries and elective surgeries. All kinds of hospital admissions and treatments and tests including elective surgeries demand informed consent of patients in today’s day. It is to protect the patient from deceitful or wrong practices and practitioners from medico-legal issues.

Informed consent of the patient is of utmost importance prior to commencement of treatment and is bound by ethical and legal frameworks. It is as much important to a patient as it is to the medical authority.
Lets try to learn more about informed consent.

1. Patients get more say in their own treatment

Informed consent gives patients the opportunity to understand what surgery or treatment is going to be performed on them. They have the right to say no to certain treatments in which case, going forward with the same may be treated as a crime. Informed consent, thus, shields the patient from malpractices, which are quite common in the health sector. A patient may demand reports or documents that support the need for a particular treatment or opt for a cheaper or less invasive treatment, all depending on the patient’s understanding and confidence over the practitioner. He or she has all the rights to demand even the nitty-gritty details about the proposed surgery or treatment prior to giving his or her consent.

2. Secures the medical practitioner from medico-legal litigations

Informed consent also safeguards the hospital’s or medical practitioner’s position from medico-legal accusations in future. Since the primary condition of getting an informed consent is that the patient must be competent and must understand the information before signing, it serves as an important document in the face of such issues arising in future. The practitioners must ensure that the patient is in the right mental capacity while giving the consent and have voluntarily accepted the suggested surgery or treatment.

3. Timing and eligibility for consent

Since informed consent is obtained from the patient directly, the patient must be competent and in the right mind when giving his or her consent. The best time, therefore, to take the informed consent is much before the surgery when the patient is under very little pressure and can understand the risks and benefits involved in the surgery. They should not be acting under stress and their decision-making abilities must be intact. Elective surgeries provide a wide scope of time for taking such informed consent from patients and usually, since these surgeries are not critical to health, do not stress the patient into taking a quick decision.

4. What must the consent involve?

The process of taking informed consent from the patient involves both parties – the patient and the medical authority. The medical authority “must” explain the condition of the patient and nature of intervention for the condition, meaning, the kind of surgery or treatment planning to be undertaken. The consequences of the surgery and all available alternatives must be clearly explained. Also, most importantly, the risks involved in the surgery, the prognosis if the suggested treatment is not undertaken and the immediate and future cost of the entire proposed treatment has to be elaborated. It is very important that the language is easily understandable by the patient so that they make a completely informed decision. The medical practitioner or hospital or elective surgery center authority must take all these care.

Similarly, it is the patient’s duty to completely understand all these components of the informed consent form and take a conscious decision before saying yes. Once the consent is given, the patient is also equally responsible towards his or her treatment and surgery and is answerable in any future medico-legal litigation.

5. The formidable consent forms

There are several consent forms each designed for a specific purpose. Informed consent forms are patient and procedure specific. The forms may change depending on whether the procedures involve local anesthesia or general anesthesia, age of the patient and other specificities. Patients below the age of 18 and over the age of 18 may be needed to sign different forms. Consent may also be dealt with differently, in cases where the patient is giving their consent but is unable to sign the form. Additionally, use of audio and visual medium for informed consent is also gaining popularity now.

Elective surgeries and other such medical interventions are often life changing and irreversible. Informed consent is a very crucial part of undergoing any surgery or treatment. It is very important, therefore, to understand and stay informed!