Observations of Physician, Patient and Family Perceptions of Informed Consent in Houston, Texas
Boisaubin, Eugene V.
Journal of Medicine and Philosophy 2004 April; 29(2): 225-236
Informed consent is one of the most important ethical and legal principles in the United States, including Texas, and reflects a profound respect for individuals and their ability to make decisions in their own best interest. It is also a critical underpinning of medical practice, although how it is actually carried out has not been well studied. A survey was conducted in the private practices and a hospital in the Texas Medical Center in Houston, Texas to ascertain how physicians, patients and patient's family members perceive and demonstrate the elements of informed consent. In-depth interviews of twelve physicians, three patients and three family members were carried out. For physicians, consent was an explicit and implicit aspect of virtually all medical practice. Physicians would seek patient input concerning medical decisions whenever possible and might also discuss care choices with families. However, they often made decisions based upon what they perceived as the patient's best interests. Patients expected the physician to involve them in the decision process, but whether they turned to family members, or even others to assist them, varied considerably. Although Texas physicians respect the competent patient as the primary decision maker, they may bypass a formal surrogate decision maker to gain input from others, including their own view of what is in the patient's best interest.
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