One thing you can always count on during a trip to the doctor’s office is signing some paperwork. There will probably be an intake document that provides or confirms your information. It should also disclose the reason for your visit. You will also likely have a form explaining your HIPPA rights. Also among the forms you receive, you may find an informed consent form.
An informed consent form gives a doctor your permission to proceed with a procedure or treatment. To be a truly informed patient you should wait and sign that form after you have had a chance to sit with your doctor. You should have a chance if possible to discuss what it allows the doctor to do. You should clearly understand what the risks are. It is also important that you know what the alternatives are. While these forms are not a guarantee that things will go smoothly they allow you to be confident in your decision to proceed with or decline treatment based on the best information you can gather.
To help understand the process of giving your informed consent here is a list of 7 steps that should take place.
7 Steps to Give Proper Informed Consent
- Know what is going to happen – An informed consent document must state the exact procedures or treatments that are going to be performed and/or being considered. Some forms give a doctor the option to perform other procedures at their discretion. Review these carefully so that you understand what these procedures are. You can withhold your consent. you can also designate someone to be your medical representative. Your representative can act on your behalf to give your consent if and when the procedures are being considered.
- Know what part of your body will be affected – The location on your body where a procedure is going to be performed should be listed on the form. Giving the doctor a chance to confirm that you understand what will be happening to you physically.
- Know the risks and alternatives – The risks and potential complications should be clearly listed and identified. This allows you the chance to discuss the negative outcomes possible from going through with the procedure. You should also be aware of any reasonable alternatives to the proposed treatment or procedure. This should include the option not to be treated.
- Know who will be involved – The consent form should list exactly who will be performing the different aspects of your procedure. It is a good idea to ask how much experience the medical staff involved have with the procedure. If anesthesia will be administered the consent form should clearly list who will be administering the anesthesia and what type of anesthesia. If not, request a separate anesthesia consent form with this information. You should also look to see if the form indicates that there will be observers and/or photography during the procedure. Even if the purpose is medical training you can withhold your consent for observers and photography.
- Have the forms in advance – Ask your doctor to provide the consent forms before the procedure. You should have a reasonable amount of time to review the forms and address any concerns you have. Keep the form(s) in your possession until you are satisfied that you have all the information you need to make a decision on your treatment. That is real informed consent.
- Have a medical representative – Bring a family member or someone who can act as your medical representative. Dealing with your medical condition and the impact of surgery may distract you as you go through this process. This person can help you understand what you are being told and document what was discussed and agreed upon as you provide your consent.
- Have Copies – Make sure you get a copy of every consent form that you sign.