Perhaps you are a patient who is about to have surgery, for the first time. A registered nurse is discussing your admission to the hospital.
“Prior to surgery, you will receive a careful explanation of the procedure, its risks, and the expected outcome. You may also be asked to sign an “informed consent” form, which states that you understand everything involved with your surgery. You should read through the consent carefully before signing it. If you have any questions or need more information, ask your physician.” (1)
There are many different kinds of surgery performed every day, all around the world. But before surgery can be performed by a physician, the nature of the surgery and its possible ramifications must be explained to you, by your doctor. By signing the document, you acknowledge that you understand the nature of the surgery and its possible consequences. The surgery consent form gives your physician permission to perform the surgery.
The surgery consent form protects you as a patient. It also gives the hospital proof that you have granted your physician permission to perform the necessary surgery. It may be used as a legal document, at a later date and thus it must be witnessed, when it is signed.
The type of consent form can vary, depending upon the location or the kind of surgery that is going to be performed. In other words, there is a different form for gall bladder surgery or heart surgery, than there is for eye surgery. A surgery consent form from one hospital, might also be different than one from another hospital. (If you wish to do some research online, you will be able to find samples of different kinds of surgery consent forms.)
Agreeing to undergo surgery is a serious decision for anyone to make, including you. But now you understand why you cannot undergo any surgery without signing a surgery consent form.
“But what if something goes wrong?” you wonder. “What then?”
This is a legitimate concern, particularly when the surgery that is to be performed is extensive or if you are seriously ill. Then there can be serious life and death issues that you and your family must confront prior to surgery. Obviously, there are no guarantees with regard to the possible outcome of any kind of surgery and so there are advance directives as well.
“Advance directives are legal documents that state a patient’s preference in treatment and resuscitation – if a patient is unable to speak for himself or herself.” (2)
There are basically two different kinds of advance directives.
The first kind of advance directive is referred to as a living will, which “states a patient’s wishes in the withholding or withdrawing of life support, if the patient suffers from an incurable or terminal condition.” (3)
The second kind of advance directive is a durable power of attorney for health care which “designates another person to make healthcare decisions if the patient is no longer able to make them. This designated person also has the power to make the final decision about cessation of treatment.” (4)
Children are of special concern when it comes to surgery consent forms, as obviously a minor cannot sign a surgery consent form, for himself or herself.
“Parental consent is required for any diagnostic procedure or surgery on a pre-adolescent child.” (5)
There are four emancipated adolescent exceptions or those who can sign consent forms and these include, “a person who is married, attends college away from home, has a child or is in the military service.” (6)
Of course, every surgery situation is different and there can be extenuating circumstances. For example,
“Sometimes an adult patient cannot make decisions (temporarily or permanently) about medical care, either because of accidental unconsciousness, confusion due to old age, or severe illness. In those instances, a family member will be asked to make any necessary medical decisions.” (7)
When you are about to undergo surgery, it is important to understand what you are signing and why. If you do not know what you are signing, make a point of finding out. Do not sign anything, until you are satisfied that you do understand what it means.
Never be afraid to ask your nurse or doctor questions, if you are in doubt about your surgery or what you are being asked to sign, prior to surgery. As caring, compassionate and concerned individuals, they will take the time to help you understand more about your pending surgery and what you are signing.
A surgery consent form protects both you and your physician and is an acknowledgement on your part, that you feel secure about putting your life into the hands of a competent surgeon.