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.


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


Want More Patient Empowerment?
Find Hundreds of Articles at:

Every Patient’s Advocate Patient Empowerment

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

4 thoughts on “Informed Consent Requires Clarity – Do You Have It?”

  1. It is very important, that you read every word in a consent form. At a hospital, you are often told what the consent form is about, and asked to sign it without actually given a chance to read it. So, I would advise that you take it home to read and ask questions about anything you do not understand,

    Often you do not get a copy, so be sure to ask for one.

    Recently, I was asked to sign a consent form to be part of a research study, that was testing for certain viruses. The doctor said I would be told if I tested positive, so I could get treated, But the consent form did not mention anything about participants being informed of their results. When I asked the doctor why this was not in the consent form, she said she “did not know why.” So I have not signed the form, and am very leary.

  2. Before I had my knee replacement last year, I was sedated and then asked to sign a consent form. I told the nurse I should have gotten it before being sedated and that I couldn’t understand it now. She insisted it was the “usual” form so I signed it but also entered the words “under sedation.” I was also told I could not have a form I made to record who gave me what and when because the nurses have it all computerized. I still resent that I could not receive this information. Is there a law that would have made the hospital give me this information when I requested it?

  3. Mae,

    You absolutely have the right to get copies of all your medical records, and in the case of surgery, the surgical notes should have recorded everyone who did everything. Here’s more information about getting copies of your records.

    In the future, it probably makes sense to refuse anesthesia until you have received, reviewed, asked questions about and then signed any consent documents.


  4. i am disabled, very ill, spouse has BCBS FEP Ins-our primary insurance, my secondary is
    medicare a & b, third, Tricare for life, each claim submitted from the first of this year until June, was denied claiming once again a battle of OHI, other health insurance, i have no other health insurance, yet they cleverly use this for months, then, medicare and tricare for life don’t pay copay’s due to too late of filing, as this delays payments, i lost good dr’s on my care team, now, expected to sign away my rights to medicare i.e., agree to pay for all costs excluding direct patient dr care, i refuse, i write i am covered and refuse to pay what others do not have to pay, this is directly printed on the forms at each dr’s office, if not signed, no care will be provided, it is only for Medicare patients-THAT IS DISCRIMINATION AT THE UTMOST AGAINST ALL MEDICARE PATIENTS-how do we deal with this? I have written, and written, and written, clear up to federal ins commissiner, ada, aclu, nobody cares, not in their forum, Debra

Comments are closed.

Trisha Torrey
Scroll to Top