What Patients Should Know About Informed Consent

When people in New Mexico discuss a medical condition with their doctors, many may have questions about their diagnosis and the recommended treatment plans. In many cases, according to the American Medical Association, doctors are required by the code of medical ethics to obtain informed consent from patients before proceeding with treatment.

Medline Plus explains that while doctors are professionals, patients are partners in managing their own medical care. As such, they must be informed. Health care providers should be open and honest in all their discussions with patients, but not every treatment requires a signed consent form. Those that usually do require informed consent include the following:

  • Vaccinations
  • Cancer treatments such as radiation or chemotherapy
  • Most surgeries
  • Complex or advanced medical procedures such as a biopsy

In some cases, providers must also give informed consent for blood tests, such as HIV testing.

Before a patient can provide informed consent, he or she will need to know some facts about the condition:

  • The diagnosis and why treatment is necessary
  • The recommended treatment and all other options for treating the condition
  • Whether the treatment is needed immediately, or it can wait
  • The details of the recommended treatment, including what happens during the process, how likely it is to be successful and what the risks are
  • Potential side effects

Without these facts, patients do not have all the information needed to make the decisions, and they may want to wait to sign the form until they feel they have what they need. Providers should welcome questions and provide resources so that patients can do their own research. Patients also have the right to seek a second opinion.

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