Getting Informed Consent-More Than Just a Signature

By Pollack, Daniel | Policy & Practice, June 2004 | Go to article overview
Save to active project

Getting Informed Consent-More Than Just a Signature

Pollack, Daniel, Policy & Practice

A 72-year-old woman developed gangrene in her feet after prolonged exposure to cold weather. With no relatives or friends to consult, she refused medical advice to have her feet amputated, a life-saving operation. Eventually, social workers for the Department of Human Services brought a court order to force the woman to have the operation. What considerations and procedures did they follow to obtain the woman's consent or to decide to override her decision?

Justice Benjamin Cardozo wrote in an early landmark case, "Every human being of adult years and sound mind has a right to determine what shall be done with his own body ..." (Schloendroff v. Society of New York Hospitals, 1914).

Numerous articles have been written regarding the meaning and intricacies of the doctrine known as "informed consent." As the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services writes, "informed consent means the knowing consent of an individual or his legally authorized representative, so situated as to be able to exercise free power of choice without undue inducement or any element of force, fraud, deceit, duress, or other form of constraint or coercion." [39 Fed. Reg. 18913]. This doctrine is founded on the notion that clients can make informed decisions only if they know and understand what the worker proposes to do, what the treatment risks are, and what alternative treatment actions are available.

Human service workers, like doctors, lawyers, and accountants, often have unequal relationships with their clients. The client is dependent, yet the worker is taught to respect and protect the client's autonomy. The client enters into a contract with the worker for a service, yet the latter must not take advantage of the disparity in knowledge and expertise.

In these litigious days, a human service employee has good reason to be fearful of liability. So how, what kind, and how much information needs to be shared with the client for a human service worker to feel secure that informed consent was obtained? There is, of course, no one answer to this question, but a checklist of ideas may be helpful:

* Is the worker behaving according to the professional norms existent at the time?

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
Loading One moment ...
Project items
Cite this article

Cited article

Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

Cited article

Getting Informed Consent-More Than Just a Signature


Text size Smaller Larger
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

While we understand printed pages are helpful to our users, this limitation is necessary to help protect our publishers' copyrighted material and prevent its unlawful distribution. We are sorry for any inconvenience.
Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.

Are you sure you want to delete this highlight?