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For U.K. Patients, Consent Becoming a Matter of Choice

New technology can help ensure decision-making is a shared responsibility

FRIDAY, June 6 (HealthDay News) -- New guidelines from the U.K. General Medical Council lack the detail necessary to help clinicians change the way they seek patient consent for surgical procedures, but they are part of a broader trend toward perceiving consent as a form of choice rather than acceptance of advice, according to an editorial published in the June 7 issue of BMJ.

Glyn Elwyn, M.D., of Cardiff University in Cardiff, U.K., writes that the new guidelines cover risk communication, action when patients refuse treatment and legal changes. The guidelines encourage active communication between patients and physicians so that patients' individual circumstances and beliefs can be taken into account in an informed decision-making process.

Although the broad brush-stroke nature of the guidelines means they offer little tangible help to clinicians, they are indicative of the need for an overhaul of the informed consent process, which should include materials to inform patients of the likely outcomes and risks, and tools to clarify their preferences.

"There is…much experience in producing such tools -- decision support technologies, also known as decision aids, are on the increase," the author writes. "As consent becomes increasingly regarded as a form of choice that involves a deliberated decision rather than just acceptance of professional advice, the shift to adopt decision support technologies as a means of achieving informed consent seems not only necessary, but inevitable."

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