Does content of informed consent forms make surgeons vulnerable to lawsuits?

Does content of informed consent forms make surgeons vulnerable to lawsuits?
Original Article
Perihan Elif Ekmekci, Müberra Devrim Güner, layda Nurelif Toman, Gülce Karaca, Berkem Karakoyunlu, Rabia Çatal, Merve Erdem, Emre Ömeroğlu
Asian Journal of Surgery,19 October 2019
Open Access
Written informed consent forms (ICFs) are important for ensuring that physicians disclose core information to patients to help them autonomously decide about treatment and for providing substantial evidence for the surgeon in case of a legal dispute. This paper aims to assess the legal and ethical appropriateness and sufficiency of the contents of ICFs designed for several elective surgical procedures currently in use in Turkish hospitals.
One hundred and twenty-six forms were randomly selected and were analyzed for 22 criteria. The results were compared using the Fisher’ exact test, and 95% confidence intervals were calculated.
More than 80% of ICFs contained information about the risks of the proposed treatment, the diagnosis of the patient, and the patient’s voluntariness/willingness, as well as a designated space for the signatures of the patient and the physician and a description of the proposed treatment. Some ICFs were designed for obtaining blanket consent for using patients’ specimens.
The ICFs for general elective surgery contain many deficiencies regarding disclosure of information, and there is significant variation among primary healthcare providers. Unrealistic expectations regarding the surgery or the post-operative recovery period due to insufficient information disclosure may lead patients, who experience post-surgical inconveniences, to file lawsuits against their surgeons. Although all ICFs, regardless of their institution, are generally insufficient for defending hospital administrations or surgeons during a lawsuit, ICFs of private hospitals might be considered better equipped for the situation than those of state or university hospitals. However, further research is needed to show if private hospitals have lower lawsuit rates or better lawsuit outcomes than state or university hospitals in Turkey.

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