Advocacy Tips

What is informed consent?

Informed consent upholds the patient’s right to self-determination and making decisions about their own treatment, which is essential to their autonomy as a human being. When self-advocating for your patient rights or when representing a patient as a patient advocate, it’s important to understand informed consent.

You cannot consent if you have not been informed. This means someone on the treatment team, typically your doctor, will educate you, in language you can understand without medical jargon, about your treatment options INCLUDING the risks and benefits of the proposed treatments.

Oftentimes, your doctor may rush through telling you about treatment options or might only tell you their preferred treatment options. You have the right to ask your doctor questions about each option. Make sure to get information about each option so you can make an informed choice that works best for you, not just your doctor. Ask the following questions:

  1. What are ALL the possible treatment options?
  2. What are the risks and benefits of each option?
  3. What are the changes and severity of the risks?
  4. What is percentage of people who find the treatment to be effective?
  5. Is this the most recent evidence-based treatment?

The final question goes to the fact that it can often take anywhere from 10-17 (yes, SEVENTEEN) years for new treatments that have been shown to be effective to make their way into clinical practice. That can be for a variety of reasons – sometimes it’s medical doctors stuck in their ways, sometimes it’s insurance falling behind approving new treatments for coverage, sometimes it’s cost prohibitive. Make sure you ask though.

Remember, informed consent only works if you are informed. And informed consent is informed choice.

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