What are the main components of informed consent?
Informed consent is a process in which the patient or their designated surrogate gives permission to evaluate or provide an intervention that has been discussed with them. When we talk to patients about informed consent we need to include the benefits, potential risks, burdens, and alternatives.
The 3 main components to informed consent are intent, understanding and voluntariness. Intent means the patient chose the option they intended to and it fits into their values and thoughts at the time. For example, if we are getting consent from a patient to do a swallowing X-ray or a flexible endoscopic evaluation, make sure the patient understands the procedure: "What we are going to do today is take a look at your swallowing. Is that okay? Did you know that we were going to do this X-ray?"
We want to make sure that patients understand the choices that they made. For example, if the patient says they are willing to do a FEES or some other similar procedure, we need to make sure that the person understands that it involves putting a tube in their nose. It might be a little uncomfortable.
Voluntariness is the third component. Voluntariness means that the person was not coerced and that means overtly such as saying, "Well, if you're not going to follow my recommendations then I'm going to discharge you from therapy," or covertly which means showing signs of disapproval in facial expressions or body language.
Ms. Wigginton earned her Master's Degree in Speech Language Pathology from Murray State University in 1991. She is a clinician at the University of Kentucky Voice and Swallow Clinic and has worked in academic medicine for over 14 years. She has a special interest in medical bioethics as it relates to the care and treatment of patients with swallowing disorders and head and neck cancer.