Training surgeons and the informed consent discussion in paediatric patients: a qualitative study examining trainee participation disclosure

Training surgeons and the informed consent discussion in paediatric patients: a qualitative study examining trainee participation disclosure
Original Article
Kunal Bhanot, Justin Chang, Samuel Grant, Annie Fecteau, Mark Camp
BMJ, 19 July 2019
Open Access
The process of obtaining informed consent is an important and complex pursuit, especially within a paediatric setting. Medical governing bodies have stated that the role of the trainee surgeon must be explained to patients and their families during the consent process. Despite this, attitudes and practices of surgeons and their trainees regarding disclosure of the trainee’s participation during the consent process has not been reported in the paediatric setting.
Nineteen face-to-face interviews were conducted with surgical trainees and staff surgeons at a tertiary-level paediatric hospital in Toronto, Canada. These were transcribed and subsequently thematically coded by three reviewers.
Five main themes were identified from the interviews. (1) Surgeons do not consistently disclose the role of surgical trainees to parents. (2) Surgical trainees are purposefully vague in disclosing their role during the consent discussion without being misleading. (3) Surgeons and surgical trainees believe parents do not fully understand the specific role of surgical trainees. (4) Graduated responsibility is an important aspect of training surgeons. (5) Surgeons feel a responsibility towards both their patients and their trainees. Surgeons do not explicitly inform patients about trainees, believing there is a lack of understanding of the training process. Trainees believe families likely underestimate their role and keep information purposely vague to reduce anxiety.
The majority of surgeons and surgical trainees do not voluntarily disclose the degree of trainee participation in surgery during the informed consent discussion with parents. An open and honest discussion should occur, allowing for parents to make an informed decision regarding their child’s care. Further patient education regarding trainees’ roles would help develop a more thorough and patient-centred informed consent process.

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