Informed Consent Practices in Nigeria
Ezeome, Emmanuel R.
Marshall, Patricia A.
Developing World Bioethics 2009 December; 9(3): 138-148
Most writing on informed consent in Africa highlights different cultural and social attributes that influence informed consent practices, especially in research settings. This review presents a composite picture of informed consent in Nigeria using empirical studies and legal and regulatory prescriptions, as well as clinical experience. It shows that Nigeria, like most other nations in Africa, is a mixture of sociocultural entities, and, notwithstanding the multitude of factors affecting it, informed consent is evolving along a purely Western model. Empirical studies show that 70-95% of Nigerian patients report giving consent for their surgical treatments. Regulatory prescriptions and adjudicated cases in Nigeria follow the Western model of informed consent. However, adversarial legal proceedings, for a multiplicity of reasons, do not play significant roles in enforcing good medical practice in Nigeria. Gender prejudices are evident, but not a norm. Individual autonomy is recognized even when decisions are made within the family. Consent practices are influenced by the level of education, extended family system, urbanization, religious practices, and health care financing options available. All limitations notwithstanding, consent discussions improved with increasing level of education of the patients, suggesting that improved physician's knowledge and increasing awareness and education of patients can override other influences. Nigerian medical schools should restructure their teaching of medical ethics to improve the knowledge and practices of physicians. More research is needed on the preferences of the Nigerian people regarding informed consent so as to adequately train physicians and positively influence physicians' behaviors.
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