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Decisions, decisions: Informed consent is an important part of the treatment process

Decisions, decisions: Informed consent is an important part of the treatment process

Some decisions about your medical care are pretty easy to make. Your healthcare provider tells you that you need some routine bloodwork, and you nod your head and say OK.

But other times your healthcare provider may say that you need a more complicated treatment or procedure that carries a bigger risk of complications. In cases like that, your healthcare provider will follow a process called informed consent. It is designed to help you make a thoughtful decision about your treatment.

Your healthcare provider begins the process by sharing information about two key areas:
1. Your condition. You can expect to learn about:
• Your diagnosis—what is wrong and why you need treatment.
• Your prognosis—the course your condition could take and your chances for recovery.

2. Your options. Your healthcare provider should explain:
• Exactly which tests you need and why you need them.
• Which treatment options might be appropriate for you.

The risks, benefits and possible outcomes for each treatment option—including having no treatment. Your healthcare provider can’t guarantee a result, but he or she should give you an idea of what to expect in terms of pain, length of recovery and lasting effects.

Because you should never go ahead with a treatment you don't fully understand, the next step in informed consent is for you to ask questions. You'll also be given time to get more information if you need it, talk with family and friends, weigh your options.

If you decide to get treatment, you’ll probably be asked to sign a form that says you agree to your healthcare provider’s plan. But even after you sign, you have the right to change your mind at any time.

Sources: American Cancer Society, American College of Surgeons, Health in Aging Foundation