5 Tips for Reviewing Medical Consent Forms Before You Sign

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One of the things that a patient may be faced with when they enter a medical facility is the need to sign certain medical consent forms. These forms are used by the medical personnel in that facility to obtain the proper consent from the patient before they begin performing a specific medical procedure on that individual. The reason they do this is that they need to ensure that the patient understands what they are getting into before the health care professionals feel free to do what they need to do. 

Verywellhealth.com provides a great explanation of why it is so essential that all patients understand what they are signing when they receive medical consent forms:

An informed consent document is a piece of paper that can give your doctor permission to run tests or give you certain types of treatments. It’s important to understand what might be in this document and what you’re required (and not required) to do with the form.

A simple understanding of which forms are required, which are not, and why you are being asked to sign them in the first place is extremely helpful. We want to provide you with some actionable tips to use before you sign that next piece of paper that the medical facility slides your way.

1) Understand That You Are NOT Required to Sign Anything 

Patients have a right to refuse treatment in the United States if they so choose. No matter what kind of pressure a medical facility may lay at your feet, you are not required to sign any medical consent forms that you are uncomfortable with. If the facility itself is what is making you feel uncomfortable, then you should know that you have every right to refuse to sign their forms.

Obviously, by refusing to sign the forms you are also turning down the treatment that they are offering. However, this might be in your best interests if you do not understand the forms they are asking you to sign or if you have concerns about the types of treatment they are recommending for you. 

2) Ask to Speak to a Patient Advocate to Help Understand the Forms

Many hospitals throughout the country have people on staff that are known as patient advocates. These individuals are employed to help the patients understand their various rights and resolve issues that may come up when there is a misunderstanding about those rights. Health Net Federal Services explains that for a hospital to receive certain accreditations, they must have patient advocates on staff that can help them resolve certain disputes with the patients themselves. 

It is quite common for patient advocates to be called in when there is a dispute over medical consent forms that needs to be ironed out. The advocate can go over the forms with the patient line by line to help them understand what it is that they are being asked to agree to. Sometimes this alone is enough to convince the patient that they should sign the forms. Clarity is key. 

3) Consider the Risks of a Treatment Carefully

a doctor having a patient sign medical consent forms
A confident female doctor shows a mature male patient the results from recent medical tests. She is pointing at something on the lab report.

The medical consent forms are required to list the potential risks and side-effects of the treatments being proposed. Thus, the form should be reviewed carefully to see what those risks may be and how they might be handled. 

Potential risks noted by some patients include: 

  • Allergic reactions to certain drugs
  • The inherent risks of having anesthetic drugs used on you
  • The danger of a medical error causing additional pain and suffering
  • The risk of waiving some of your legal rights

All of this can sound pretty scary. It is not meant to be intimidating, but rather to cover the broad spectrum of potential outcomes that could occur as a result of a patient receiving medical treatment that has potential risks associated with it. We take risks as human beings every day, so it seems only reasonable that we would want to know about all of the potential risks of medical treatments that we receive. These forms help protect the medical professionals and the patients in case something goes wrong. 

4) Consent May Not Always Be Obtainable

It is vital to remember that consent to perform a medical procedure may not always be obtainable in an emergency situation. When people see that they need to sign medical consent forms to receive a procedure, they sometimes get a little wary, but the truth is that they should feel blessed that they have the opportunity to sign such forms. At least it means that they are being notified of their rights ahead of time and get to make a choice in the matter. In an emergency situation, that might not be possible at all. 

When possible, it is best to have forms on file with the hospital (and perhaps with your attorney) about your wishes for end-of-life care. If the hospital knows that you have requested something like a do not resuscitate order ahead of time, then they may have the ability to honor your wishes even if you are unable to give consent at the time. 

5) Medical Consent Forms Do Not Take Away All Legal Responsibilities From Doctors

A common misconception is that signing a consent form is dooming oneself to whatever the doctor decides is best for you. However, that is actually not true. A consent form is about obtaining your consent to have a procedure done and to allow you to be informed about the risk factors related to that procedure beforehand. However, it does not mean that the doctors get to behave in unethical or unprofessional ways. Do not let yourself be fooled into thinking that all of your legal rights are gone the minute you put pen to paper. 

Review Medical Consent Forms Before You Sign

There are always options to consider if someone goes wrong during a medical procedure. You will want to check with an attorney as quickly as you can to see what steps to take next if something like this happens to you. Consent form or not, you may still have a case. If you would like to ask questions about your specific case and set up an appointment, please contact us today.

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