Everything You Need to Know About Informed Consent will explain what it means for a person to give informed consent. It will discuss the things a person must be told and must understand for their consent to be considered “informed”. Everything You Need to Know About Informed Consent will also look at how these issues apply to groups such as children, adolescents, people with intellectual disabilities, and other individuals whose ability to give informed consent may be an ethical question or a serious legal issue. Therefore, this is a key issue for anyone in medical or psychological fields.
Important things that will be included in Everything You Need to Know About Informed Consent include definitions of “informed consent”, definitions of key terms that a student would want to know when discussing it, and how it applies in a variety of real-life circumstances. This information will include citations that reference important authorities and research studies on this topic. It will also make sure that if you are ever in a situation where you are questioned about your ethics regarding informed consent, you will be able to explain the basis of your decisions in a clear, knowledgeable way.
This book is ideal for college-level psychology or medical students, especially those at any level who are likely to encounter this topic either in their coursework or in research projects. It will also be valuable for any graduate-level student in any psychology, counseling, or medical field who may be providing treatment or conducting research in the future. Informed consent is nearly always a topic in graduate ethics courses and this book will put you far ahead of your classmates in being able to define and clarify the concept.
Giving informed consent is something that you probably do on a regular basis without realizing it. When you go to your doctor’s office and sign off on all the forms about patient confidentiality, release of information, and other similar forms, it is assumed that you have read those forms and understand them, and that your signature indicates “informed consent”, even though many of us are guilty of signing without reading first.
In its most basic form, the term “informed consent” simply means that the person understands what they are giving you permission to do. In an ethical and a legal sense, it means a lot more, and that’s where this book will assist you.
For example, if you are doing a psychology experiment where the subject knows everything about the experiment would ruin the results, how much do you have to tell them for them to be able to give informed consent? Does this change how you design the experiment?
As another example, if you are asked to treat an adolescent for counseling or for a medical condition, is that adolescent able to give informed consent? Ethically, does he or she understand the possible consequences of treatment, and can you provide treatment without consulting with the parents? Legally, is the adolescent considered capable of giving informed consent, or does that have to come from a parent/guardian? There are very few firm rules in this area, and many differ by state and profession. There are also times when legal and ethical decisions may contradict each other.
The issue of informed consent is evident when my child’s school calls me to ask if the nurse can give my teenager some aspirin for a headache. While the nurse and I both know that my child knows what aspirin is and whether she should take it, the school does not consider her legally able to give informed consent to take medication, and I have to be called to consent on her behalf.
Some adults are not necessarily able to give informed consent. Individuals with severe intellectual disabilities usually have a designated guardian to give consent for them, but there are cases where the guardian is not acting in the person’s best interest.
In all situations, however, there is a certain amount of information a person must be able to understand before their consent can be considered “informed”. This information includes possible risks and benefits, what is going to happen during the procedure or study, and what information will be shared with others.