LEGAL QUESTIONS: Signed under duress?

June 2004 
Volume 34  Number 6
Pages 24 - 24
  PDF Version Available!


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    Yesterday, I was asked to witness a patient's signature on an informed consent form. Now I'm wondering if I did the right thing by signing as a witness .

    The patient's husband was present when the physician very clearly explained the risks and benefits of the proposed surgery, but the patient just kept shaking her head and saying, “I don't know….” She seemed very worried and reluctant to sign. Her husband appeared angry and said things like, “Oh, come on, just sign the form. What other option do we have?” When she still wouldn't pick up the pen, he gave a big sigh and began pacing around the room .

    The physician finally asked him to leave the room for a moment, but even with him gone, the patient seemed timid and unsure about her decision. At last, she apologized for hesitating and signed the form.

    I feel that she signed under emotional duress from her husband. ...

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