A hospital is already an intimidating place. You are already vulnerable because you need medical attention, and the people on your healthcare team are responsible for helping you leave in a better situation than when you entered.
Before they will help you, though, they hand you a form. Some of it may make sense, but when you do not encounter legal and medical terminology regularly, the consent form may leave you scared and confused.
Many people find medical consent forms difficult to understand, but do not know what to do about it. Here’s what you need to know before you sign a consent form for a healthcare provider.
Do people actually read them?
It is not just in movies that people will sign a consent form without giving it a second glance. In a medical setting, you may feel rushed to get through a form and give your consent, especially if someone is watching you.
Just because many people do not read their consent forms, does not mean it is what you should do. Consent forms have important information that can limit your options if a procedure does not go as planned.
What to do with a difficult form
Forms that are too difficult for patients to understand are problematic on a few levels. First, and most obviously, if you cannot understand the form, you will not understand what rights you have and what rights you are giving away.
The less obvious issue with a form that is difficult to understand is the intimidation you may feel when you read it. Often, if you find the language of a form intimidating, you may feel too overwhelmed to know what questions you should ask, or you may feel too ashamed to ask questions at all.
No matter how intimidated you feel, it is important to understand what rights and abilities you gain or lose from signing a consent form. If there are words or phrases you do not understand, ask your care provider to explain it to you. Your healthcare team has a responsibility to help you understand your procedures and what you agree to when you give your consent.