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How much information should you get to have informed consent?

Medical procedures can seem intimidating. Often an area of your body is failing or in disrepair, and you need a solution before it gets worse. In these situations, it can seem like you do not have a choice but to get the proposed procedure.

For some, knowing the details of a treatment or operation can be comforting since they know what to expect. For other patients, it can be terrifying knowing what is going to happen on the operating table. Regardless of where you fall on the spectrum of patients, you might need a different level of informed consent.

Here’s what you should know about your procedure to be considered to have informed consent.

No substitute for a medical degree

Doctors study for years to gain their knowledge of medicine and how the body is likely to respond to a prescribed treatment. Although your doctor cannot impart their deeper understanding, they still have a duty to explain the risks and benefits of your procedure, such as:

  • Expected side-effects
  • Range of recovery time
  • Rehabilitation expectations
  • Patient-specific risks

In some cases, your doctor may explain the procedure, but at a higher level than you fully understand. If your doctor is explaining your treatment and you do not understand, it is essential to ask more questions or request someone who can explain it differently.

When your doctor gives you information that you do not understand, it is similar to not giving the information at all. An essential element to informed consent is that you understand the information that you agree to.

What they can leave out

If the doctor expected you to understand every risk and nuance of your treatment, it would become an impractical exercise. Informed consent does not have to include impractical information like extremely unlikely risks.

Keep in mind, there are also times when consent can be implied, such as in some emergencies. In these limited cases, a doctor can assume that a patient would rather risk complications than an otherwise devastating outcome.