It’s rare to come across someone who refuses to hear information that is offered. In general, people want to know everything—whether it is ordinary gossip or their medical conditions. Therefore, there are many patients who desire informed consent because they want to know the details and reasons behind the medication they are assigned to take.
Informed consent is when a physician is “obligated to obtain the patient’s consent” and to “disclose relevant information about the treatment before obtaining consent and beginning treatment” (Lidz et al, 299). However, nowadays, the doctor-patient relationship gap has widened and, as a result, there’s a lack of communication between the two. So, “physicians do not often fully inform” and “patients do not fully understand” because the doctors don’t have the time and/or desire to make those connections with their patients (Lidz et al, 299). So, while the patients should have an input on their medical decisions, it’s really the physicians who make them (Lidz et al, 299).
Time is of the essence. The time the physician has with his patient is limited, so the medical situations are treated as an event as opposed to a process. Lidz and his colleagues said: “medical decisions are processes that emerge and evolve over a period of time, not discrete events that occur only once” (Lidz et al, 300). However, usually, informed consent is given to a patient at a time where the medical decision is already made. For instance, when I was a freshman in high school, I needed knee surgery. I did not know what the surgery entailed until that day. I had an idea of what anesthesia was but I didn’t know exactly how it worked until I was about to go into the surgery room and my anesthesiologist started explaining to me what was going to happen. I remember thinking how fast-pace the process was. While she put the IV in me, she quickly asked me questions about any allergies to anesthesia and quickly explained to me how the medicine worked and how my body was supposed to react. At this point, I was already going into the operating room and even if I did not want to, I had to go through with it.
Though this example may be miniscule, I think it’s extremely important for one to be informed about their medical situation if they want to be. Though time is the main issue, I think it’s important for the physician himself to, at least, summarize a patient’s situation and give him or her a broad idea of the medication the physician is giving them. Additionally, it may be necessary to even discuss the side effects or why alternative medicine is or isn’t possible. However, unfortunately, physicians don’t think that informed consent is an “integral part of good patient care” (Lidz et al, 303) so they don’t make it a point in their limited time to discuss medical details that, perhaps, they should share with their patients.
Patients should be informed. Though the physician should share information, I think it’s up to the patient to ask questions so that they are knowledgeable and, therefore, make decisions for themselves. In The Place of Autonomy in Bioethics, Childress says that the principle of respect for personal autonomy includes being competent, informed, and acting voluntarily (Childress, 309). We should want to have respect for our personal independence by being knowledgeable.
Lidz, Charles W., Meisel, Alan, Osterweis, Marian, Holden, Janice L., Marx,
John H., Munetz, Mark R. “Barriers to Informed Consent.” Arguing
about bioethics. London: Routledge, 2012. 299-307. Print.
Childress, James F. “The Place of Autonomy in Bioethics.” Arguing about
bioethics. London: Routledge, 2012. 308-316. Print.