Legal Department: Informed Consent: It Is More Than Just a Document
C. Leigh Wilhite JD, RN, LHCRM

Plastic Surgical Nursing
December 2010 
Volume 30  Number 4
Pages 259 - 261
  PDF Version Available!

Informed consent is a process whereby a physician informs a patient about the risks, benefits, and alternatives to a proposed therapy, thereby enabling a fully apprised patient to participate in choices about his healthcare and decide whether to undergo the recommended therapy and procedures.The process of informed consent originates from ethical right of the patient to determine what happens to his body. The ethical obligation of a physician is to involve the patient in his or her healthcare. Although the process of informed consent is rooted in the ethics of the medical doctor, the obligation has extended to other disciplines, including the osteopathic physician, chiropractic physician, podiatric physician, dentist, advanced registered nurse practitioner, and physician assistant. Although these ethical obligations are advanced by professional organizations such as the American Medical Association (AMA) through its AMA Code of Medical Ethics (2006) all 50 states of the United States have codified these principles and passed legislation mandating that patients be fully informed with regard to the aspects of treatment and procedures recommended. The fully informed patient must provide valid consent to the proposed treatment and procedure, with proper documentation obtained and maintained by the provider.Although the laws and statutes differ greatly among the 50 states, the basic premises are the same. Specifically, it is a fundamental right of the patient to make decision regarding treatment and procedures recommended, including refusal to treatment. In addition, there is the concept that the healthcare professional will disclose to the patient in a nonjudgmental, concise, and nontechnical manner information regarding his or her disease or condition along with available and recommended treatment. These basic concepts are based on the assertion that a competent individual has the right to determine his or her course of healthcare (Edwards, Lilfor, Thornton, & Hewison,

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