Saturday, February 6, 2010

Informed Consent

When a woman goes to the hospital to have a baby she is given forms to sign, and is usually immediately placed in a hospital room with a bed and hooked up to all kinds of gadgets and strange machines. In the throes of labor does she read through all of the forms and know exactly what she is agreeing to when she signs them? When a doctor, midwife or hospital staff want to intervene somehow with her labor and birth, do they explain all of the benefits and risks associated with that intervention? By law, physicians are required to provide full disclosure to the patient, and this is called "Informed Consent".

The American Medical Association has laid out requirements for Informed Consent as follows:

“Informed consent is more than simply getting a patient to sign a written consent form. It is a process of communication between a patient and physician that results in the patient's authorization or agreement to undergo a specific medical intervention.
In the communications process, you, as the physician providing or performing the treatment and/or procedure (not a delegated representative), should disclose and discuss with your patient:
  • The patient's diagnosis, if known;
  • The nature and purpose of a proposed treatment or procedure;
  • The risks and benefits of a proposed treatment or procedure;
  • Alternatives (regardless of their cost or the extent to which the treatment options are covered by health insurance);
  • The risks and benefits of the alternative treatment or procedure; and
  • The risks and benefits of not receiving or undergoing a treatment or procedure.
In turn, your patient should have an opportunity to ask questions to elicit a better understanding of the treatment or procedure, so that he or she can make an informed decision to proceed or to refuse a particular course of medical intervention.

This communications process, or a variation thereof, is both an ethical obligation and a legal requirement spelled out in statutes and case law in all 50 states.”

Informed Consent is required by law, yet I don't recall being given informed consent for every intervention done on me or my baby in any of my 4 hospital births. This is of grave concern, as I believe all women should be fully aware of the reasons, risks and benefits of what is being done.

I urge every woman to take charge of her own care and insist on having informed consent. After all, it is her legal right and her doctor's legal obligation.

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