What is informed consent?

In Pittsburgh, patients have the right to know what is going on with their health and what their treatment options are. This is known as informed consent. It is important for patients to have informed consent so that they are aware of what their medical condition is and can make a decision regarding treatment.

Patients have received informed consent if they have received information regarding their health condition and treatment options, the patients understand their health condition and treatment options and the patients are able to decide what treatment option they would like to pursue and is able to communicate their consent to receive treatment. Some medical treatments require a written informed consent in which a medical provider explains the patient’s condition and the agreed upon treatment and the patient signs the form. Not all treatments require a signed consent form.

The treatments that usually require informed consent include surgeries, advanced or complex medical procedures, chemotherapy, radiation, vaccinations and some blood tests. During the informed consent process the medical provider will discuss the health problem with the patient. They will discuss treatment options and what will happen during treatment, including the risks, how likely the treatment is to work, unknown risks or side effects, other treatment options and if the treatment is needed right away. With this information the patient should be able to make a decision regarding the person’s medical care.

Emergency situations do not require informed consent if a delay in treatment would be harmful to a patient. For patients who are not able to make medical decisions for themselves anymore, such as people in a coma, medical providers will review the medical condition and consent with a decision maker. Even with informed consent a negligent physician can still make mistakes, such as a failure to diagnose. These mistakes can result in a worsened condition and the medical provider can be held accountable for their negligence.

Source: Medline Plus, “Informed consent-adults,” accessed on Nov. 17, 2014