A commonsense approach to informed consent in good medical practice

‘What is missing in the debate surrounding informed consent is the true nature of patient understanding, what information patients want to know, and how to deal with patients who wish to know only the minimum. There is little work in the area of assessing the understanding of the information given to patients. Clinicians often find it difficult to be certain how much patients or their relatives have correctly understood the information given to them. Understanding is affected by who is giving them the information, how it is explained, and the time or environment required to assimilate information. A paternalistic approach is unacceptable in medical practice; a common sense approach – explaining things clearly, tailoring what is said to what the patient seems to want, and checking understanding – is required for good medical practice.’

Gill R. How to seek consent and gain understanding. BMJ 2010;341:c4000.