(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.
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