Based on an interview with Erica S. Spatz, MD, MHS,
Assistant Professor of Medicine, Yale School of Medicine
Imagine that you’re about to be wheeled into surgery. You’ve fasted for 24 hours, you’re in a hospital gown, and you’re awaiting the doctor’s arrival. Then the nurse brings in some paperwork, and you’re asked to sign a form acknowledging the risks of the procedure. You see some potential side effects or consequences that concern you—but at that point, how likely are you to refuse the procedure?
For many patients, that last-minute signature is the only experience they have with informed consent. Legally, however, informed consent is defined as the process in which a patient learns about and understands the purpose, benefits, and potential risks of a medical or surgical intervention.
In my view, that discussion should begin long before surgery day, so a patient has time to balance the risks and benefits before moving forward with a decision.