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Archive for August, 2011

Informed Consent Requires Clarity – Do You Have It?

(as published in the Syracuse Post Standard August 16, 2011)

Recently I was chosen to participate in a new writing project. There were some basic details and responsibilities I was expected to agree to, including a specific number of articles, average number of words, and some other typical expectations.

I was given a contract to sign. After a careful reading, there were some strange differences from others I had signed in the past. I found some hedge words in the contract which could mean I would do all the work, but they could decide not to pay me, yet still have the rights to use my work. Red flags!

I didn’t jump to conclusions. Instead I asked questions. “Will you explain what this means?” “Will you give me an example of how this might work?” Eventually we clarified the fuzzy wording, worked out the terms, and I signed the contract.

But – and this is important – I didn’t sign it without making a few alterations to the descriptions. Each party initialed those changes, then signed the contracts.

So why should you, my reader, care about my writing contract?

Because every time you need certain medical tests, any medical procedure and many treatments, you are asked to sign a contract, too. It’s called “Informed Consent.” By law, those services cannot be performed unless your signature is obtained ahead of time on an Informed Consent document. That consent provides legal protection to both you and the person who performs the service.

The real question before you sign is, have you been thoroughly informed? Do you understand the risks, benefits and alternatives to whatever service is about to be performed? Do you know exactly who will perform it? Have they managed your expectations?

Sometimes Informed Consent documents will have hedge words or statements in them, like my contract did. For example, “to be performed by Dr. Serg Ury or his representatives” may mean your surgery will be performed by someone you don’t expect. Just who are his representatives? They might be his partners, or they might be students. If it is important to you, then clarify, and change the wording if necessary.

Wise patients never sign an Informed Consent document until they are very clear on what is about to happen, who will be making it happen, and what the risks, benefits and alternatives are.

Clarity will provide confidence that you understand what is about to happen, and that you’ve made the right choices for you.

……………… ADDITIONAL RESOURCES ON THIS TOPIC ………………

Understand Informed Consent

Trauma from Violations of Informed Consent

Patients’ Rights in the United States

How to Prevent Surgery Mistakes on the Day of Surgery

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About.com Patient Empowerment

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Can Patients Know Too Much?

(as published in the Syracuse Post Standard August 2, 2011)

Recently a series of videos appeared on a doctor education website, attempting to teach doctors how to deal with difficult patients. One of the videos was entitled, “The Patient Who Knows Too Much.”

That video sparked a heated debate among empowered patients and professionals. Can patients possibly know TOO much about their medical challenges and needs?

My opinion on this controversy might surprise you.

I don’t think the real question is whether patients can know too much. In fact, I think most of our doctors prefer we understand our health challenges and the steps needed to manage or get past them.

Instead, I think the real problem is how we patients approach our doctors with what we have learned, too often putting stock in misinformation. We arrive in our doctors’ offices with a fistful of computer print outs – information we’ve gleaned from our web searches that may, or may not, be appropriate to our conditions. It’s not that we know too much. It’s that we are curious about points the doctor believes to be wrong or irrelevant.

When the doctor finds us in the exam room with that stack of printed pages, whether or not he realizes it, he may become defensive. He may even be insulted. He has spent years getting an education and amassing experience. Before him sits a patient who thinks she is knowledgeable because she spent an hour on the Internet.

Further, it’s not that he believes his patient knows too much. It’s that appointment times are short, and he knows she will have a litany of questions about her findings, many of which do not apply to her diagnosis or symptoms, and some of which are false information.

But we empowered patients do have questions! We constantly find information we want to discuss. So what should we do instead?

Begin by making sure the information you find is credible and reliable. Here are some guidelines: http://bit.ly/CredibleHealthInfo.  When you find possibly useful information you would like to discuss with your doctor, prepare some notes and questions to take to your next appointment. Then leave the print-outs at home.

During your appointment, ask, “Doctor, what do you know about X?”  You’ll be asking for his expertise, not putting him on the defensive.

Patients cannot possibly know too much. But they can certainly come across as if they do. Don’t let that approach come between you and your doctor.

……………… ADDITIONAL RESOURCES ON THIS TOPIC ………………

How to Verify Credible Health Information

Sharing Internet Health Information With Your Doctor

Use Blogs and Wikis to Find Health Information

Government Health Websites

……………………………………………………………………………………

Want More Patient Empowerment?
Find Hundreds of Articles at:

Every Patient’s Advocate

About.com Patient Empowerment

…and…
sign up for 2x per month newsletters of
Patient Empowerment Tips