Applying a Sociolinguistic Model to the Analysis of Informed Consent Documents
Nursing Ethics 2009 November; 16(6): 797-812
Information on the risks and benefits related to surgical procedures is essential for patients in order to obtain their informed consent. Some disciplines, such as sociolinguistics, offer insights that are helpful for patient-professional communication in both written and oral consent. Communication difficulties become more acute when patients make decisions through an informed consent document because they may sign this with a lack of understanding and information, and consequently feel deprived of their freedom to make their choice about different treatments or surgery. This article discusses findings from documentary analysis using the sociolinguistic SPEAKING model, which was applied to the general and specific informed consent documents required for laparoscopic surgery of the bile duct at Torrecárdenas Hospital, Almería, Spain. The objective of this procedure was to identify flaws when information was provided, together with its readability, its voluntary basis, and patients' consent. The results suggest potential linguistic communication difficulties, different languages being used, cultural clashes, asymmetry of communication between professionals and patients, assignment of rights on the part of patients, and overprotection of professionals and institutions.
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