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A checklist to follow before giving informed consent

What rights do you have to decide the course of your medical treatment in New York? Informed consent is required before a undergoing heart surgery or cancer treatment, but what does this really mean.

Unfortunately, many people put more effort into choosing their new television rather than picking a surgeon. Before any surgery or procedure, do your homework. Find out if the surgeon is board certified in the specialty, the number of this type of surgeries he or she completes each year and what are the outcomes. Does the surgeon have a malpractice history. A simple Google search may turn up that other states have revoked a license. Question where the physician is advertising - going with an Penny saver surgeon may lead to a bad outcome and no insurance. 

Two doctors shared some secrets behind informed consent in the New York Times recently. The conversation is often over quickly and patients rarely ask questions. How can you change this exchange?

Here is a checklist

To help make sure you fully understand what is going to happen and the risks, use these suggestions:

  • Summarize back what you heard asking for clarification: So what you are saying is that at end of the treatment there is a 50 percent chance that I will be cured. What exactly is an “urostomy?” 
  • Ask for written materials/talk to someone who had the surgery: Having a hard copy to read gives you a chance to absorb the information. Talk to someone who has been there and can share about pain or the recovery process.
  • Best-case/worst-case scenarios: It’s impossible to know exactly what will happen, but it is good to know the most likely scenario as well as the extremes.

Take notes during a meeting, so you can advocate for yourself or a loved one. Seek a second opinion or ask about alternative treatment options as well.

As the doctors note in their op-ed, they never want to cause harm. But sometimes the worst case happens. Legal remedies might be available when harm resulted from a medical mistake, but some initial research may avoid this in the first place.

Selecting the closest doctor who takes your insurance does not always lead to the best outcome. The best surgeon in a specialty may actually be available in a nearby city. It's crucial to be a smart consumer when making medical decisions; your life depends on it.

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