Barriers to Obtaining Informed Consent on Shortterm Surgical Missions

Barriers to Obtaining Informed Consent on Shortterm Surgical Missions
Urška Čebron, Calum Honeyman, Meklit Berhane, Vinod Patel,  Dominique Martin, Mark McGurk
Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery – Global Open: May 2020; 8(5) e2823
Open Access
Short-term surgical missions (STSMs) enable visiting surgeons to help address inequalities in the provision of surgical care in resource-limited settings. One criticism of STSMs is a failure to obtain informed consent from patients before major surgical interventions. We aim to use collective evidence to establish the barriers to obtaining informed consent on STSMs and in resource-limited settings and suggest practical solutions to overcome them.
A systematic review was performed using PubMed and Web of Science databases and following Preferred Reporting Items for Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis guidelines. In addition to the data synthesized from the systematic review, we also include pertinent data from a recent long-term follow-up study in Ethiopia.
Of the 72 records screened, 11 studies were included in our review. The most common barrier to obtaining informed consent was a paternalistic approach to medicine and patient education. Other common barriers were a lack of ethics education among surgeons in low-income and middle-income countries, cultural beliefs toward healthcare, and language barriers between the surgeons and patients. Our experience of a decade of reconstructive surgery missions in Ethiopia corroborates this. In a long-term follow-up study of our head-and-neck patients, informed consent was obtained for 85% (n = 68) of patients over a 14-year period.
This study highlights the main barriers to obtaining informed consent on STSMs and in the resource-limited setting. We propose a checklist that incorporates practical solutions to the most common barriers surgeons will experience, aimed to improve the process of informed consent on STSMs.

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