A few basics on informed consent

Residency Program Insider, December 8, 2017

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Informed consent is a delicate, very tailored process that varies depending on the individual patient. At its core, informed consent can be defined as the “communication between a patient and physician [that] results in the patient’s authorization or agreement to undergo a specific medical intervention,” according to the AMA. 

To provide residents, medical students, and physicians with guidance on informed consent, the AMA Ethics Group has released an e-learning module. The module focuses on major consent competencies, including defining each step of the informed consent process. On a fundamental level, this means determining if the patient has the capacity to understand what is being said, process it, and make an independent decision. This requires that the discussion with the patient or a surrogate covers the basics, including diagnosis, treatment recommendations, and potential risks versus anticipated benefits. An important distinction to bear in mind is that a meaningful discussion does not have to be an overtly complicated or exhaustive one. Instinct and the patient’s ability to comprehend will guide the specificity of the conversation.

In some cases, patients may lack the capacity to give informed consent. This calls for substituted judgement, which is based on the known values and preferences of the patients before they lost their decision-making abilities. Substituted judgements can take the form of advanced directives or notations in the medical record.

Source: AMA Wire

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