JOURNAL ARTICLE

Information disclosure in clinical informed consent: "reasonable" patient's perception of norm in high-context communication culture

Muhammad M Hammami, Yussuf Al-Jawarneh, Muhammad B Hammami, Mohammad Al Qadire
BMC Medical Ethics 2014, 15: 3
24406055

BACKGROUND: The current doctrine of informed consent for clinical care has been developed in cultures characterized by low-context communication and monitoring-style coping. There are scarce empirical data on patients' norm perception of information disclosure in other cultures.

METHODS: We surveyed 470 adults who were planning to undergo or had recently undergone a written informed consent-requiring procedure in a tertiary healthcare hospital in Saudi Arabia. Perceptions of norm and current practice were explored using a 5-point Likert scale (1 = strongly agree with disclosure) and 30 information items in 7 domains: practitioners' details, benefits, risks, complications' management, available alternatives, procedure's description, and post-procedure's issues.

RESULTS: Respondents' mean (SD) age was 38.4 (12.5); 50.2% were males, 57.2% had ≥ college education, and 37.9% had undergone a procedure. According to norm perception, strongly agree/agree responses ranged from 98.0% (major benefits) to 50.5% (assistant/trainee's name). Overall, items related to benefits and post-procedure's issues were ranked better (more agreeable) than items related to risks and available alternatives. Ranking scores were better in post-procedure respondents for 4 (13.3%) items (p < 0.001 to 0.001) and in males for 8 (26.7%) items (p = 0.008 to <0.001). Older age was associated with better ranking scores for 3 (10.0%) items and worse for one (p < 0.001 to 0.006). According to current practice perception, strongly agree/agree responses ranged from 93.3% (disclosure of procedure's name) to 13.9% (lead practitioner's training place), ranking scores were worse for all items compared to norm perception (p < 0.001), and post-procedure status, younger age, and lower educational level were associated with better ranking scores for 15 (50.0%), 12 (40.0%), and 4 (13.3%) items, respectively (p < 0.001 to 0.009).

CONCLUSIONS: 1) even in an overall high-context communication culture, extensive and more information than is currently disclosed is perceived as norm, 2) the focus of the desired information is closer to benefits and post-procedure's issues than risks and available alternatives, 3) male, post-procedure, and older patients are in favor of more information disclosure, 4) male, older, and more educated patients may be particularly dissatisfied with current information disclosure. The focus and extent of information disclosure for clinical informed consent may need to be adjusted if a "reasonable" patient's standard is to be met.

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