What should patients be told prior to a medical procedure? Ethical and legal perspectives on medical informed consent

D J Mazur
American Journal of Medicine 1986, 81 (6): 1051-4
Ethicists and the medicolegal system agree that patients have rights to information prior to an elective medical procedure. Yet, it is far from clear whether there is at the present time an adequate framework for informing patients. Medicolegally, court cases as early as the 1900s strongly emphasized the preservation of individual rights to information in the patient-physician relationship. Most recently, an increasing number of states use the criterion of what a "reasonable man" would want as the basis for medical informed consent. Medical ethicists also have offered general principles for consideration by physicians: the importance of patient autonomy and preferences in decisions related to their own health care. This report examines the historical development of informed consent in the United States, legal and ethical perspectives in medical informed consent, and the pragmatic issues yet to be considered by physicians in keeping their duty to inform patients prior to a medical procedure.

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