Robert M. Veatch’s article argues that informed consent should be abandoned due to its uses as a “transitional concept” and ambiguity (Veatch 317). Veatch provides several examples to support his argument, among these include the “best interest standard”, how a person defines well-being, and physician bias (322-334). All of Veatch’s examples are accurate; with our current health care system it is difficult for physicians to make recommendations or conduct procedures on patients. Two important supporting facts of Veatch’s argument are that “actual consent is not obtained in all cases” and that the concept of informed consent is a relatively recent occurrence (317-318). Patients may also misinterpret the benefits and risks of a procedure (Krumholz 1190). However, in present day Western society I do not think that we would be able to eliminate informed consent. There are too many legal ramifications that could occur which will only require unnecessary spending. In order to find a median between informed consent and the best interest of the patient I suggest that the physician-patient relationship be adapted.
Many of the information against consent were rooted in the physician-patient relationship. American health care does not place great emphasis on time spent with the patient, which does not allow physicians to get to actually know their patients. Many of the issues Veatch present deal with this lack of relationship. This suggests that improving and strengthening the relationship between the two parties would be beneficial for both.
An article by Dr. Harlan M. Krumholz poses a potential solution to improving the consent process. Dr. Krumholz suggests a patient centered approach. Patient centered care focuses on “providing care that is respectful of and responsive to individual patient preferences, needs, and values, and ensuring that patient values guide all clinical decisions” (Krumholz 1190). This means that the physician must have a minimal understanding of who their patient actually is. By acknowledging and working with the patient based on their values, many of the issues that Veatch brings up become irrelevant. To improve patient knowledge about procedures and to improve the process of giving consent Krumholz suggests that patients should receive a “brief standardized and personalized informed consent document” that would cover the risks, benefits, alternatives, experience and cost of the procedure (1190). This document can facilitate discussion between physician and patient, and allow the patient to ask more questions and receive the doctor’s opinion. Consent forms will be standardized, and be at an average reading level and reasonable length (Krumholz 1190). Consent forms will not be written by the institution but by experts from the Department of Health and Human Services. One health system in Kansas City has tried out Krumholz’s solution, which led to “improved reading and satisfaction with the consent process, less patient anxiety, and a sense of partnership in the decision-making process” (1190). Krumholz’s solution agrees with one of the last points of Veatch’s article, “the concept of consent will have to be replaced with…active patient participation” (Veatch 327).
This change to patient-centered care could be added to current health care reform. President Obama’s Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act is attempting to improve health care by reducing the amount spent on health care and providing quality care that is affordable (Health Care Reform Timeline). Including active patient participation into the reform (or as a result of it) can also be beneficial. People may take a greater interest in their health, and could be more proactive in maintaining healthy lifestyles.
Health Care Reform Timeline. http://obamacarefacts.com/health-care-reform-timeline.php
Krumholz, H.M. “Informed Consent to Promote Patient-Centered Care.” JAMA. 303.12 (2010):1190-1191. Web. 24 Feb 2014.
Veatch, R.M. Arguing about Bioethics. Ed. Stephen Holland. Routledge: New York, NY, 2012. Print.