Public Input on Informed Consent

At a recent BC Public Advisory Network meeting, staff from nine different Colleges met with members of the public to discuss the topic of informed consent. While registrants must meet their College’s Practice Standards that set out the requirements for obtaining informed consent, it was helpful to hear the client’s unique perspective. Public advisors were asked what they expect from health care professionals when it comes to informed consent. Here are some highlights they shared with us:

  • Explicitly express that treatment requires their consent. Not everyone is aware that consent is needed.
  • Be cautious about using family members to translate when obtaining consent for higher risk interventions, sometimes the translation isn’t accurate.
  • Watch out for literacy issues if written text is being used. Consider adding diagrams. Offer pre-reading material if available.
  • There are opportunities for discrimination when obtaining consent. If practitioners assume that the client cannot understand the description of the treatment, the language used may not be clear, truthful, or complete.
  • Do not make assumptions about the choices or preferences of the client.
  • Invite the opportunity to ask questions and engage with the client.
  • Be empathetic and considerate of the client’s lived experience.
  • Have evidence to back up treatment suggestions. Some clients will have done online research and will expect a conversation about pros and cons of treatment options.
  • Ask the client to repeat back their understanding of the treatment to ensure that the information has been understood. Reaffirm consent.

When asked why consent is important to the public, the responses were powerful:

  • It’s important to take the time to get consent properly, if you have a good process, it builds trust.
  • When providing consent, “… we are putting our health and wellness in the hands of a practitioner. It is our right to do so with the best possible information.”

Interested in learning more about the public advisors’ perspectives? Read the full BC-PAN meeting summary.