If you are facing a surgical procedure, you will have to sign an informed consent form. This is a form that spells out what the risks and expected outcome of the procedure may be. It is used to confirm that you are aware of everything that will happen in the operating room or office and area allowing the doctors, nurses and staff to perform the procedures. You may have several consent forms to sign, depending on the procedure. For example, you may have one informed consent form for anesthesia and another for the actual surgery. Parents or guardians will have to sign consents for minor children, and the immediate next of kin will have to sign for adults who are unable to sign for themselves.
Most of the time, the doctor, nurse or other staff person will come in and briefly explain the consent form. Usually this occurs right before the procedure, which means that you don’t often have a chance to read the form. Because the person asking you to sign the form may be talking quickly and monotonously (they’ve probably have had multiples of these forms to get done before they have gotten to yours), you may not even be able to fully understand what they are saying to you. This is why it is so important to be proactive when it comes to your procedures and the signed consent form.
First of all, don’t be intimidated into signing the form. Take all of the time you need to understand what you are signing. Ask questions. Remember that you are giving your permission, so you need all of the facts.
If you have any doubts about signing the form or feel pressured, and it isn’t an emergency, ask if you can have a day to think about it. Ideally, whenever non-emergency surgery is suggested to you, you should leave your doctor’s office with a good understanding of the risks and benefits, before you schedule the surgery. This way, you can take the extra time that you need to make a decision.