Intended for healthcare professionals

Medical Practice

How informed is signed consent?

Br Med J (Clin Res Ed) 1988; 296 doi: (Published 19 March 1988) Cite this as: Br Med J (Clin Res Ed) 1988;296:839
  1. D J Byrne,
  2. A Napier,
  3. A Cuschieri


    The assurance that patients fully understand the information given to them before they sign the consent form for operation has never been validated in this country. One hundred patients were interviewed by an independent medical observer in one surgical unit in a teaching hospital between two and five days after their operation. Although all the patients interviewed were fully aware that they had had an operation, 27 did not know which organ was operated on and 44 were unaware of the exact nature of the surgical procedure. A significantly higher age group was observed in the group of patients who were unaware of the basic facts relating to their operation, and the problem was encountered most commonly in patients over the age of 60. Because of the medical and legal importance the findings of this pilot study warrant further large scale investigations.

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