Informed consent in dentistry and medicine in Spain: Practical considerations and legality

Informed consent in dentistry and medicine in Spain: Practical considerations and legality
M Otero, N Oishi, F Martínez, M-T Ballester, J Basterra
Medicina oral, patología oral y cirugía buccal, 3 April 2022
Abstract
Background
The healthcare practice of dentistry, as well as medicine, is framed within a legal environment. Patients have the right to know all the information related to any action performed on them and dental or medical doctors are obliged to obtain their patient’s prior written informed consent (IC) before undertaking any healthcare procedures.
Material and methods
Here we reviewed the legality and jurisprudence in Spain regarding IC. We also used INFLESZ text readability analysis software to analyse a sample of official Spanish informed consent documents (ICDs) from different surgical and interventional procedures related to dentistry and oral cavity interventions.
Results
It is a mistake to confound IC with ICDs. This error prevents physicians from considering the former as a care process in which the patient’s authorisation signature is the last link in a chain formed, almost in its entirety, by the informative process and deliberation alongside the patient. Multiple factors can influence communication between practitioners and their patients. Importantly, treatment adherence is greater when patients feel involved and autonomous in shared decision-making and when the circumstances of their lives are adequately considered. We concluded that although the ICDs we analysed conformed to the requirements set out in international law, they were somewhat difficult to read according to the reading habits of the general Spanish population.
Conclusions
Knowledge about the legality of IC helps professionals to understand the problems that may arise from their non-compliance. This is because the omission or defective fulfilment of IC obligations is the origin of legal responsibility for medical practitioners. In this sense, to date, there have been more convictions for defective ICs than for malpractice. The information provided in ICs should include the risks, benefits, and treatment alternatives and must be tailored to the needs and capabilities of the patient to enable autonomous decision-making.

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