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Informed consent is fundamental to ethical healthcare. In this article, we’ll define the term “informed consent” and explain how it relates to nursing home abuse.

Key Takeaways

  • Informed consent is a process of communication between a patient and healthcare provider in which a patient gives permission for care
  • Informed consent’s purpose is to protect the patient
  • As part of the informed consent process, healthcare providers must give the patient complete information about their condition and options for treatment
  • If a healthcare provider provides incomplete information or coerces a patient into consenting, it is not considered informed consent
  • Nursing home staff must obtain informed consent before treating residents

What Is Informed Consent?

Informed consent is a process of communication between a patient and their healthcare provider in which the patient gives permission for care, treatment, or services. Patients have the right to get information and ask questions prior to procedures and treatments. If an adult patient is not mentally able to make their own decisions, medical care cannot be given unless they give informed consent. 

The purpose of the informed consent process is to protect the patient. It ensures ongoing communication between the patient and their healthcare providers and allows them to choose the option that they feel is right for them. 

As part of the informed consent process, healthcare providers must give the patient complete information about their condition and options for testing and treatment including:

  • The name of the condition
  • The name of the recommended procedure or treatment
  • Risks and benefits of the procedure or treatment
  • Risks and benefits of other options
  • Risks and benefits of not getting the procedure or treatment 

When a patient signs informed consent, it means:

  • They have received all of the information about their condition, treatment, and options
  • They understand this information
  • They've had a chance to ask questions
  • They used this information to decide if they want to receive the recommended treatment 

Consent is given by signing a consent form. The form is a legal document allowing the healthcare provider to proceed with the treatment plan. 

Different states may have varying laws on how treatment options must be given to patients, whether verbally or in writing. It is vital that patients understand what they are consenting to, even if it requires asking many questions or going over the information multiple times.

If a healthcare provider lies about the need for treatment, hides or minimizes potential risks or side effects, or otherwise pressures the patient into getting the treatment, consent cannot be considered informed. 

Informed Consent and Nursing Home Abuse

Informed consent is required in a nursing home setting in which residents receive treatment or procedures from the staff. This is an important protection for nursing home patients who are vulnerable to their caretakers. 

If a resident is not in a physical or mental state to provide informed consent, or they have power of attorney for healthcare decisions, nursing home staff must contact the power of attorney or another appropriate family member/responsible party for consent. 

Note that there are situations in which nursing home staff do not need to obtain informed consent such as if the resident is at risk of catastrophic injury or death if the treatment is not provided immediately. However, the nursing home must still take reasonable measures to contact the responsible party first or communicate with the resident to obtain consent for any further treatment. 

A failure to obtain informed consent before proceeding with treatment is considered nursing home abuse. If you or a loved one have experienced nursing home abuse, report it to the relevant authority immediately. You may also want to speak to a nursing home abuse lawyer to discuss your options for compensation and justice for your suffering.

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