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ASN: Kidney Consent Forms Can Be Difficult to Understand

Forms written at 10th grade to college levels may confuse patients, lead to disparities in care

MONDAY, Nov. 2 (HealthDay News) -- The forms used to obtain consent for kidney donation and transplantation are written at too high a reading level to be easily understood by many kidney patients, which may lead to disparities in care, according to a study presented at the American Society of Nephrology's 42nd Annual Meeting and Scientific Exposition, held from Oct. 27 to Nov. 1 in San Diego.

Elisa J. Gordon, Ph.D., of Northwestern University in Chicago, and colleagues obtained copies of consent forms for kidney donation and transplantation used at U.S. kidney transplant centers from February to June 2009. The researchers analyzed the readability of the forms using three instruments: Lexile Measure, Flesch-Kincaid Grade Level, and Gunning Fox.

The researchers discovered that the reading levels demanded by the forms ranged between 10th grade and college level. Literacy studies have shown that 43 percent of the adult population in the United States have limited health literacy skills and may have difficulty comprehending health materials. If the donation and transplantation consent forms are not clearly and simply written, patients may not clearly understand their options or the risks and benefits of kidney transplantation, the authors note.

"We know that health literacy issues lead to disparities for other chronic diseases, and evidence suggests that it applies to patients with kidney disease, too. This needs to be taken seriously and promptly addressed," Gordon said in a statement.

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