Monday, August 23, 2010

Consent forms

A few weeks ago, I underwent a relatively minor outpatient procedure at Kaiser's Richmond medical center. The usual precautions were taken: my blood pressure and pulse before and after the procedure, and my name was written on a tape attached to my wrist - presumably in case something unexpected occurred and I had to be rushed off to the hospital's operating room.

All this I understand, but this particular procedure required me to lie supine on a table, and have straps secured around my calves - presumably in case I tried to escape!

After I was made quite comfortable, with pillows under my head and under my knees, a complicated document was stuck under my nose, and I was asked to sign a consent form. I did this quite cheerfully, being an obedient patient, but it got me thinking. It occurred to me that if a patient were unhappy with the result of the procedure, any competent attorney could easily discredit this so-called "consent form". In my mind's eye, I saw myself as a famous plaintiff's attorney, doing my best Walter Mitty act. (If that means nothing to you, ask an older person who can remember Danny Kaye's wonderful 1939 performance in "The Secret Life of Water Mitty".)

My dermatologist had detected a suspicious spot on my nose, which wouldn't heal. She had called for a biopsy, which indicated that it was some form of skin cancer. Hence the procedure. It was a complex, painstaking, and meticulous business, lasting a full hour, but all is well, and the stitches were taken out early the following week.

It would be wise for those instructing hospital personnel to train them to obtain these consent forms before the patient arrives at the operating table .Perhaps it would also be wise to have a witness sign, in case the surgery ever becomes part of a lawsuit. Such a witness could testify, if necessary, that the patient was not under duress to sign.

1 comment:

  1. In Illinois where I live, no one would even enter an operating room unless the consent was signed and witnessed. Interesting differences across the land.