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Journal of the Royal Society of Medicine Volume 87 March 1994

149

Informed consent: what do patients want to know?

Patrick J D Dawes BS FRCS'

Pauline Davison SRN2

'Consultant ENTSurgeon,

Sunderland Royal Infirmary, New Durham Road, Sunderland and 2Sister in Charge, ENT Out-patient Department, Freeman Hospital, Newcastle, UK

Keywords: informed consent; ENT

surgerySummary Informed consent is an important aspect of surgery, yet there has been little inquiry as to what patienits want to know before their operation. This study has questioned 50 patients within 3 monthsof an ENT (ear, nose and throat) operation. We found that most were happy to allow doctors to determine their treatment but they wanted to know about their condition, the treatment, and the importantside effects. Fifty per cent of patients admitted worrying about some aspect oftheir recent surgery. More than two-thirds thought signing a consent form primarily signified agreement to undergotreatment and that it was a legal document; 54% thought there was an important medico-legal aspect. Over half thought information sheets would be reassuring, one-third thought they would provoke anxietyand 8% thought they would frighten them from having surgery. Closer examination of the answers to our questions showed that those who were most worried about aspects of their surgery had a higher meananxiety score, as did those who thought an information slheet would be either frightening or anxiety provoking. However, a higher anxiety score was not associated with a desire to know less about theproposed treatment.
Introduction Although informed consent is a patient's basic right it is often taken for granted that most patients are happy to do as their physician advises. It is also commonlysaid that telling patients about their treatment only serves to increase their anxiety and may even dissuade them from undergoing treatment. Little has been done to determine either what patients...
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