Health Services; patient consent (Photo)

Someone enters the Student Health Services office, Oct. 24, 2018.

Do you know your rights when you are asked to sign a consent to treatment form for medical treatment? Sometimes, you require care that includes signing a document for something like having a surgical procedure or chemotherapy. Most may never consider what is involved when signing a consent form — but it is definitely something you need to consider.

Not being informed about choices for your care could make a huge difference to your outcome if you don’t have first-hand knowledge to make informed decisions. It is a patient’s right to know.

For example, did you know it is your right to know whether the recommended surgeon’s skill level is up to date for the type of surgery you require? When you take on the persona of being a patient, you shouldn’t lose status, but this is what can happen. Therefore, it’s important you understand your rights. You want to inquire about other options, including those beyond your locale if you find the options you’ve researched from such trusted websites as PubMed, Web MD or Mayo Clinic are not offered in your area. This is not a time to feel intimidated, but it is often the outcome. So, in order to prepare yourself, being informed is the best defence.

Here is an example of how being informed can make a difference: you injure your leg or your grandparent needs a hip replacement; the surgeon on call, or the one your doctor recommended, doesn't have the skill to do the most up to date procedure and the hospital facility doesn’t have the equipment, but they don’t disclose this information.

Full disclosure and transparency are two hallmarks required for a consent signature. Next time you hear about someone, or you yourself are in a situation that requires hospital care or treatment, make sure you understand the process and indicate that you expect to be fully informed. This also applies to getting any other prescribed treatment.

While you don’t usually have to sign for most medications you are prescribed, due diligence is still needed. This means you should ask questions and research your options as well as learn about the medication, ask why it is being prescribed and know what the side-effects can arise while taking medications. This is even more important when you are expected to take a medication for a long time. Some are prescribed a medication to take daily for depression, indigestion problems, high blood pressure or other reasons. Always ask yourself: how well informed am I about the medication or the surgical procedure I am being recommended? It might seem to you this isn’t your responsibility, and that it is the physicians’ responsibility. And while I agree they should inform you, this doesn’t always occur.

To ensure you are protecting yourself, know your rights, but also take it upon yourself to become a well-informed person. It’s your best defence to achieve the good health you need.

Questions or concerns regarding Western's health care system can be sent to health@uwo.ca.

- Elizabeth Rankin, BScN and Western graduate

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