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Question
Posted by: Ma'at | 2003/03/01

What does Informed Consent mean to medical practitioners?

Informed Consent has become the new buzword in the medical profession. What does it mean and who is responsible for ensuring that the client is indeed informed before accepting the attending professional's reccomendation? Is it the attending professional's obligation to make sure that the client understands both the pros and the cons of whatever cause of action the professional is reccomending, and how is the client assured that the attending professional is in fact objective and does not only present the "houseview" of his particular branch of medicine? If medical practitioners present only one view, how can the claim that the client is indeed informed?

Thank you.

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Our expert says:
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Ma’at, it means that a person cannot give consent if he doesn’t understand what he is giving consent for. This doesn’t mean that he needs to understand the intricate details, but he needs to understand what the average layperson does. During this explanation the general aspects and average outcomes need to be covered. Exceptions to the rule are just that – exceptions. The other side of the coin is of course that most people go to a certain doctor out of their own free will and this implies that they support his type of treatment (homeopathic, allopathic, traditional medicine, etc.). The law also judges these things against the average man. If your beliefs fall outside the average man’s, you can’t sue your doctor because he did something that falls outside your beliefs.
Of course the above only applies to normal every day consultations. More care needs to be taken with operations and treatments that might have a negative outcome. More care needs to be taken to make sure that the patient understands exactly what it going to happen and also what his chances are (exceptions to the rule included). If possible the patient should also be urged to get a second opinion. Hope this answers your question.

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