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Prior to performing any invasive tests or medical treatment, medical practitioners must obtain permission from the patient in a method that is voluntary, informed, and competent. Informed consent is the process of obtaining permission to undertake surgical procedures or treatments on a patient. Patients have the right to obtain information on the risks, alternative treatments, and benefits to enable them make the right decision in the care they should get. Medical practitioners should present the information in a manner that is comprehensible to the patient and accurately disclose risks and benefits of the treatment. If the patient cannot understand the information or make decisions, the doctor can revert to the person who has the power of attorney for healthcare of the patient. If there is none, a surrogate decision maker may be used to get the authorization (Kapp, 2002). Informed consent has several ethical issues. The capacity of the patient, lack of disclosure, coercion, and religious beliefs are some of the ethical that informed consent is faces. Medical practitioners may attempt to influence the patients’ decision on the treatment procedures. There are also situations where the patient may refuse the treatment despite its significant benefits.
Medical practitioners should determine whether the patient has the capacity to make decisions. It is essential that the patient is capable of using mental functions to hold, learn, and process knowledge. Minors, retarded people, and mentally ill individuals are incompetent in making healthcare decisions that pertains them. All adults are competent, unless they have been officially adjudged as incompetent. As long as the patient follows the medical practitioner’s guidelines, there is no conflict with the medical practitioner. This is despite the fact that sometimes the treatment may not have health benefits on the patient. However, if the patient fails to follow the medical practitioners’ guidelines, questions on the capacity and legal competency of the patient may arise (Lachman, 2006). This is ironical, since the patient has the right to make independent decisions based on the available facts.
It is also vital that medical practitioners provide as much information as possible to the patient to facilitate the decision making process. However, the level of information that the medical practitioners should provide is not quantifiable. Therefore, it is common for medical practitioners to withhold certain vital information to the patient if the information may make the patient reject the prescribed procedure. This is especially if the doctor deems the recommended medical procedure to be beneficial to the patient. In most instances, the medical practitioner is not under any obligation to provide information that is not within the scope of the discipline of the healthcare provider (Lachman, 2006). Therefore, lack of full disclosure of information may make the patient consent to certain treatment procedures that may have a negative effect on the patient in the long term.
The medical practitioner may use coercion to ensure the patient signs the consent form. The medical practitioner may use threats to influence the patient’s decision. An example is if the medical practitioner threatens to abandon the patient if he does not sign the consent form. In some instances, the threat may be subtle and may not be easily noticed (Lachman, 2006). Coercion leaves the patient with a sense of dread. This forces the patient to sign the consent form unwillingly. Consent should be in a situation that there are no strings attached. If the patient refuses to consent to certain procedure or treatment that may have significant benefits on the patient’s health, the medical practitioner has the obligation of continuing to inform the patient on the procedure or treatment (Lachman, 2006).
Religion plays a crucial role on the perceptions and decisions made by individuals. Religion may determine the surgical procedures or treatments that patients may consent. Thus, it is common for patients to rejects certain treatments even if they are beneficial to them. A clear example is Jehovah Witnesses whose religion forbids blood transfusion or organ transplant. This places the medical practitioner at crossroads on whether to seek legal help or respect the patient’s decision. In most instances, medical practitioners uphold the decision of the patients. However, if the refusal to the treatment may harm other parties the court may rule that the patient undertakes the treatment (Pozgar, Santucci & Pinnella, 2013). A clear example is if the patient has an infectious disease, such as tuberculosis. By refusing to consent to the treatment, the patient risks infecting other people with the disease. The court may also overrule the decision of a competent pregnant woman if the refusal has adverse effects on the fetal health.
Medical practitioners obtain informed consent from the patients prior to undertaking any surgical procedure or treatment. Patients are under no obligation to consent to treatment procedures proposed by medical practitioners. They have a right to get all the relevant information to enable them make decisions based on the facts. If the patients refuse the treatment, despite the fact that it may significantly improve their health status, medical practitioners should respect their decision. Coercion, capacity of the patient, lack of disclosure, coercion, and religious beliefs are some of the ethical issues that informed consent faces. Medical practitioners may undertake unethical conduct to influence the decisions of the patients in favor of the treatment procedures they propose. There are instances that necessitate medical practitioners to move to court to ensure patients consent to the treatment procedures, if lack of treatment harms other parties.