The issue of informed consent is one of the most prevalent ethical problems within the
healthcare industry today. The world of healthcare is very fast paced and often times, patients are in and
out of a doctor’s office within minutes. The patient may be unaware of their diagnosis or uninformed
about certain medications they are prescribed. Given that informed consent has only been around for
approximately 60 years or so, this has been a problem that has plagued healthcare industry for decades.
While certain states have mandated a licensed pharmacist to consult with every patient when he or she
receives a medicine they have never taken, not all states have implemented this rule. This is one of
many areas that have affected the nursing profession, both in the past and present.
Surgical procedures may be one of the most delicate of all issues pertaining to informed
consent. By law, a potential patient must read a pre-printed document where the name of the procedure
is handwritten; the patient must sign on the dotted line in approval before a surgery can take place.
However, this can be a serious issue as many patients come from all walks of life. According to an
article within The American Journal Of Bioethics, approximately 60 to 70 percent of patients do not
read or fully understand most informed consent papers. Almost 50 percent cannot remember the nature
of the procedure being done to them.
The primary factor in this problem is level of education varies from patient to patient. Most lay
people are unable to comprehend how complex a surgical procedure may be, within a small time frame
they are often given. An issue healthcare workers face is that many American’s health literacy is on a
par with a seventh grader. Trying to explain complicated procedures takes time and most nurses are
extremely busy. They may have a large patient load that they can only see for 10 or 15 minutes each. It
simply is not plausible to explain an elaborate operation from the mouth of a college educated
professional to one with the comprehension of a Jr. high school student.
Lastly, even if a patient says okay, signs the consent form and does not ask questions, is this person truly informed? The latter makes it nearly impossible to know, thus making it a consistent dilemma within the healthcare field.
There are a few ways this problem can be handled. One is to only allow a surgeon who will be
performing a procedure, to speak with the patient and obtain the consent. Second, as long is there is no
life threatening ailments or injuries in which an operation is time-sensitive, the patient should become
educated long before he or she enters the pre-operation area. This way they can ask more questions and
do more research if necessary. Nurses and other hospital staff should accompany a patient in to the
operation room and ask them questions pertaining to the procedure. If the patient is unclear on any
facet of the procedure, the staff can apprise the surgeon immediately. Lastly, healthcare workers
including, physicians, specialists, registered nurses, CNA’s and other staff should take a special training
course in the proper way to gain informed consent from the patient. Professionals tend to speak over
many of their patient’s heads without realizing it. Medical jargon must be translated into layman’s terms
and they should frequently stop and ask the patient questions in case they do not understand or
something does not make sense. It sounds easy when they are words on a sheet of paper, however, there
should be steps taken to help eradicate this problem that has been prevalent in medicine for so long.