1. When is informed consent required?
Informed consent is required whenever dental treatment is rendered, even if of a routine nature. Informed consent is defined as a patient’s voluntary agreement to accept treatment based upon the patient’s awareness of the nature of his or her problem, the material risks and benefits of the proposed treatment, the alternative treatments and risks, if any, or the consequences of no treatment at all.
2. Do I need to use a specific form?
Orally obtaining informed consent is sufficient, although written evidence of having obtained the patient’s informed consent to the treatment is infinitely preferable, if for no other reason than being able to prove that the risks and benefits of the proposed treatment were discussed with the patient and that the patient understood the same and consented voluntarily to the treatment. While no specific form is necessary, it should include all of the elements listed above, i.e., the nature of the patient’s problem, the nature of the treatment, the risks and benefits involved, the existence of alternative treatment, if any and the consequences of no treatment at all, as well as an indication that the patient understands and voluntarily agrees to accept treatment.
3. Can I have my assistant have the patient sign a form?
Again, substance must be stressed over form. The critical ingredient is that the patient understands the proposed treatment and consents to it. As a practical matter, it is more advisable for the doctor to explain the situation to the patient, if for no other reason than making it personal and demonstrating a caring attitude. Good “bedside” manners go a long way towards preventing problems later on.
4. At what point in the treatment should informed consent be given?
Informed consent should be given before the treatment is begins. If during the course of treatment the treatment plan changes, the nature of the changes should be explained and additional consent acquired.
5. Should I have the consent form witnessed?
Witnessing is more a matter of legal proof. It is advisable, but, again, the critical question is whether or not the patient was advised, whether or not the patient understood, and whether or not the patient consented, whether witnessed or not.
EDIC provides various consent forms on our Risk Management page on our website at http://www.edic.com/risk-management/risk-management-materials-and-consent-forms/
We recommend some type of informed consent form to be used when a procedure warrants it. This is no guarantee that the use of any of the sample consent forms that EDIC provides will prevent a patient from alleging a lack of proper informed consent in a lawsuit. It is recommended that you seek legal advice prior to use of any consent forms in your office.