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Patient Rights (cont.)

Informed Consent

Part of communication in medicine involves informed consent for treatment and procedures. This is considered a basic patient right. Informed consent involves the patient's understanding of the following:

  • What the doctor is proposing to do
  • Whether the doctor's proposal is a minor procedure or major surgery
  • The nature and purpose of the treatment
  • Intended effects versus possible side effects
  • The risks and anticipated benefits involved
  • All reasonable alternatives including risks and possible benefits.

Closely associated with informed consent, voluntary consent means that the patient understands these concepts; the patient rights include the following:

  • Freedom from force, fraud, deceit, duress, overreaching or other ulterior form of constraint or coercion
  • The right to refuse or withdraw without influencing the patient's future healthcare
  • The right to ask questions and to negotiate aspects of treatment

A patient must be competent in order to give voluntary and informed consent. Thus, competent consent involves the ability to make and stand by an informed, freely made decision. In clinical practice, competence is often equated with capacity. Decision-making capacity refers to a patient's ability to make decisions about accepting healthcare recommendations. To have adequate decision-making capacity, a patient must understand the options, the consequences associated with the various options, and the costs and benefits of these consequences by relating them to personal values and priorities.

Some factors may make a patient incapable of providing competent consent either temporarily or permanently. Examples include the following:

  • Mental illness or mental retardation
  • Alcohol or drug intoxication
  • Altered mental status
  • Brain injury
  • Being too young to legally make decisions concerning health care

Patients that are judged incompetent (often determined by two independent physicians or in some instances, by a legal decree) can have others legally permitted to make medical decisions for the patient.

Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 3/27/2013

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