The Institute for Health Quality and Ethics

Informed Consent

What is Informed Consent?

Current Issues in Informed Consent
 - Breast Cancer Screening
Defined by The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy:

"In clinical practice, the doctrine of informed consent rose to dominance during the course of the 20th century. It replaced a medical ethos founded on trust in physicians' decisions—often on the assumption that “doctor knows best”—with an ethos that sought to put patients in charge of their own care. In medical research on human subjects, informed consent requirements gained prominence in reaction to abuses. One influential response to the cruelty of Nazi experiments was the Nuremberg Code of research ethics, which stipulated, “The voluntary consent of the human subject is absolutely essential” (Faden and Beauchamp 1986, 156)."1

1. Eyal, Nir, "Informed Consent", The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (Fall 2012 Edition), Edward N. Zalta (ed.), URL =

Defined by The American Medical Association:

"Informed consent is more than simply getting a patient to sign a written consent form. It is a process of communication between a patient and physician that results in the patient's authorization or agreement to undergo a specific medical intervention. In the communications process, you, as the physician providing or performing the treatment and/or procedure (not a delegated representative), should disclose and discuss with your patient: 

   - The patient's diagnosis, if known;
The nature and purpose of a proposed treatment or procedure;
The risks and benefits of a proposed treatment or procedure;
   - Alternatives (regardless of their cost or the extent to which the treatment options are covered by health insurance);
   - The risks and benefits of the alternative treatment or procedure; and
The risks and benefits of not receiving or undergoing a treatment or procedure.

In turn, your patient should have an opportunity to ask questions to elicit a better understanding of the treatment or procedure, so that he or she can make an informed decision to proceed or to refuse a particular course of medical intervention. This communications process, or a variation thereof, is both an ethical obligation and a legal requirement spelled out in statutes and case law in all 50 states." 2

2. Accessed January 31, 2013

Evolution of Informed Consent (Coming Soon)   
 - Influential medical and social movements
 - Unethical research practices
 - Development of Ethical Guidelines and Standards for Research
 - Development of Ethical Guidelines and Standards in Clinical Practice

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