Principles of Informed Consent
- To give consent an individual must be legally able to do so. This means the individual needs to be of legal age and mentally competent. To be considered legally competent, the individual must be mentally sound and not under the influence of alcohol or drugs. This means that special care must be taken when treating seriously ill or injured patients. The influence of pain killers or of fear, depression or anxiety brought on by the ailment can be considered grounds for nullifying informed consent.
- The patient should be informed of the benefits of the proposed procedure or course of treatment in a realistic fashion. This means the patient must understand the likelihood of the potential benefits and the variety of possible positive outcomes. Focusing only on the best case scenario, or stating that a possible outcome is a guaranteed outcome, could nullify informed consent if that outcome is not achieved.
- The patient must also be informed of any risks associated with the proposed procedure or course of treatment. This includes the risk that it will not be effective, but must also include any risk of negative consequences including possible side effects. The likelihood of each possible consequence should also be discussed and understood by the patient. The medical professional should avoid using medical jargon and ensure the patient fully understands what is being proposed.
- In addition to risks and benefits, patients should understand the full details of the proposed action. This includes the steps involved, any and all procedures and medications that may be required and the time frame or expected duration of treatment. The patient should also be given an idea of the cost of treatment and an opportunity to consult with his insurance provider. Except in time-critical, life-threatening situations, patients should also never be discouraged from discussing the proposed treatment with others including getting a second opinion if they so choose.