What is your role as a patient advocate in the informed consent process?

Informed Consent

Situation

J.S., a 72-yr-old woman, is waiting in the preoperative holding area.

You are discussing her impending surgery when you realize that this

competent adult does not fully understand her surgery and was not

informed of the alternatives to this surgery. Although she has

previously signed a consent form, your assessment is that she was not

fully informed about her treatment options or does not recall them.

Ethical/Legal Points for Consideration

• Informed consent requires that patients have complete

information about the proposed treatment, as well as alternative

treatments, risks and benefits of each treatment option, and

possible consequences of the surgical procedure. The person

(usually the surgeon) performing the procedure usually has this

responsibility.

• An opportunity to have questions answered about the various

treatment options and their possible outcomes is a crucial

element of informed consent.

• A patient can revoke the consent at any time, even at the very last

minute. It is essential that you report any circumstance that

suggests that the patient does not understand the information or

is revoking the informed consent to the person who obtained the

consent.

• In most states, the registered nurse’s legal role is to witness the

signing of the document. This means that as a nurse, you attest to

the fact that the patient’s signature was valid.

Discussion Questions

1. What do you think you should do next?

2. What is your role as a patient advocate in the informed consent

process?

3. What should you do if the patient states that she does not want

to know about the surgical procedure or alternatives to

surgery?

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