Many people are aware that their doctors must get their informed consent before proceeding with any course of medical treatment. The logic behind the requirement is clear. Patients have the right to understand the options in front of them, the risks of a course of action, and other important information before allowing a medical professional to take action. After all it is the patient and their family that will personally suffer the consequences of all medical decisions.
However, new research out of the Journal of Clinical Oncology suggests that all too often doctors fail to share proper information and correct patient misinterpretations in informed consent discussions.
The research focused on informed consent conversations for patients that are asked to participate in clinical trials. The study involved taping many conversations between oncologists and cancer patients regarding informed consent. Both the professional and patient then filled out questionnaires about the discussion and their knowledge of what took place. The results reveal some problems.
Researchers found that the discussion of the patient’s prognosis was often lacking. Also, alternative care plans were infrequently mentioned, and patients appeared to misinterpret the options in front of them. Patients also left the discussion with little information about available supportive care choices.