My son is having surgery in a few weeks. The nurses gave us educational materials
to learn more about it, in preparation for something called "informed consent." What
does this mean? – Ned
Informed consent is a legal term. It means that you are fully aware of the facts
of a situation (in this case, a surgical procedure) before agreeing to it. Other situations
that need informed consent include blood transfusions, anesthesia, and vaccines.
To get your informed consent, the doctor will discuss with you things such as:
your child's diagnosis
details about the procedure or treatment, and why it's recommended
the risks and benefits involved
any possible alternative treatments
the risks and benefits of any alternatives
the risks and benefits of NOT undergoing the treatment or procedure
It is the doctor's responsibility to make sure you understand the medical problem
and treatment. During the discussion, you can ask questions. This is your right and
responsibility — and there's no such thing as a silly question. You'll be asked
to sign a written consent form before the surgery. If you can't be there to sign the
form, you'll be contacted by phone to give your consent.
In rare emergencies, a parent might be unavailable to give consent for a treatment
for a young child — for example, if an unconscious patient comes into the ER.
Then, doctors apply the principle of "presumed"or "implied" consent, using their professional
judgment to do what is best for the child.