You may not know this term specifically, but you know what it is. Informed consent is the bedrock of modern Western medical ethics. Every time you talk with your doctor, he applies the concept of informed consent.
In layman’s terms, informed consent is the process of the physician clearly explaining the risks of a treatment to the patient, and then getting the patient’s approval to perform the treatment.
To sum it up, if your doc thinks you could use a medicine or a procedure or even a follow-up visit, he has to explain why you may need it, the risks and benefits of the it, and then he has to get you to agree to it.
Informed consent is why all those pharma companies’ advertisements always end with, “Ask your doctor if [insert medicine here] is right for you.” Unless you are unconscious, in need of immediate medical care, and without any surrogates around, doctors absolutely cannot, ever, not even once, do anything to you unless they talk to you about it first and get your permission.
Informed consent is so foundational to Western medicine that the American Medical Association has taken care to specifically define it – because health professionals who do not obtain informed consent are guilty, at best, of malpractice at best and at worst, criminal assault (or battery, depending on your state).
The process of informed consent occurs when communication between a patient and physician results in the patient’s authorization or agreement to undergo a specific medical intervention. In seeking a patient’s informed consent (or the consent of the patient’s surrogate if the patient lacks decision-making capacity or declines to participate in making decisions), physicians should:
(A) Assess the patient’s ability to understand relevant medical information and the implications of treatment alternatives and to make an independent, voluntary decision.
Present relevant information accurately and sensitively, in keeping with the patient’s preferences for receiving medical information.
(B) The physician should include information about:
– The diagnosis (when known)
– The nature and purpose of recommended interventions
– The burdens, risks, and expected benefits of all options, including forgoing treatment
(C) Document the informed consent conversation and the patient’s (or surrogate’s) decision in the medical record in some manner. When the patient/surrogate has provided specific written consent, the consent form should be included in the record.
Informed consent was placed in the center of our medical systems following a century of terrible abuse of patients in the name of “medicine.” The most widely known example of abuse is, of course, the Nazi medical experiments of the Holocaust. But it goes much deeper than that. Even in the United States, forced lobotomies, forced sterilizations, and people chained to the walls in mental institutions were standard practice until the 1970s.
Informed consent is not a joke… except to the Johns Hopkins University Bloomberg School of Public Health, which through their Instagram page now officially thinks informed consent is something to be laughed at.
Thankfully, I was not the only one who shouted at JHU on this post that mocking informed consent was despicable, although it appears that my comment was among those deleted by them. The outcry was enough that JHU posted a (non)apology for the post, claiming they intended to be “playful.”
You know, “playful” as in “making fun of how people can have their lives destroyed in the name of quack medicine.”
And they still kept the post up!
It’s shameful that one of the top educational institutions in the nation would stoop so low as to mock one of our most important and necessary pillars of medical ethics.
But nothing is surprising anymore in the Age of COVID.
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