Author(s): AAB Jamjoom, Hardman J G, Moppett I K
Background and Goal of Study: The attitudes of patients' to informed consent have changed over the years1, but there has been little systematic study of the attitudes (and possible differences) of anaesthetists and surgeons in this process. We aimed to describe the attitudes of medical professionals in our local hospital to issues surrounding informed consent.
Materials and Methods: A custom designed questionnaire was administered to a randomly selected cohort of 75 anaesthetists and surgeons. All answers were selected from a 5‐point scale: 1 ‐ strongly disagree to 5 ‐ strongly agree.
Results and Discussions: Surgeons and anaesthetists generally agreed in their attitudes towards informed consent. Although the clear majority were happy with the provision of informed consent in their practice, less than 25% had had formal training. Respondents were more inclined towards consent as an ethical and legal obligation than being of benefit to the doctor‐patient relationship; anaesthetists were more likely to feel that informed consent may reduce anxiety. Around 50% of both groups felt that informed consent was inappropriate since most patients do not usually remember all the information given to them. Although, in the UK consent can be taken by any appropriately trained person, both groups were strongly opposed to non‐physician consent, anaesthetists more so. The majority of both groups felt that major risks more common that 1:1000 should be disclosed; a minority felt this for risks > 1:10,000. For minor risks, the majority favoured disclosure > 1:100, the minority for risk > 1:1000. UK case law does not set a particular frequency of risk for disclosure. The level of the patient's education, inquisitiveness and seriousness of co‐morbidity were more likely to influence anaesthetists than surgeons. Neither group was particularly influenced by patient's sex or publicly versus privately funded healthcare settings. Both groups favoured the provision of written information.
Conclusion: Surgeons and anaesthetists in the UK have similar attitudes to informed consent, though anaesthetists may be more influenced by individual circumstances than surgeons. Both groups tend towards informed consent as an obligation rather than being of benefit to the patient.