We tend to think of “Informed Consent” as having the patient sign a form prior to performing surgery in the OR. This may be misleading, however, from several perspectives.
- Obtaining informed consent is a process, not a form. In fact, the form itself may not be required, but the process always is.
- Informed consent is a part of the shared decision-making process in which the provider comes to a shared understanding and plan with the patient, based on both the professional knowledge, judgment and experience of the provider and the knowledge and preferences of the patient.
- The shared decision-making process would ideally be performed anytime a treatment, either surgical or medical, is recommended, not just before major surgery.
- The signed consent form or permit is important for legal, regulatory and accreditation requirements; but does not take the place of the shared decision-making process. The form is further evidence that the process has taken place.
- The process should be performed by the treating provider and include a discussion of the indications for the recommended treatment, the nature of the treatment, the risks of that treatment, alternatives to that treatment, and risks of not proceeding.
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