What Did I Consent To?

After signing several consent forms while I laid in a hospital bed two weekends ago, I immediately thought of previous class discussions surrounding consent. The first form to sign was the HIPAA law form. I signed this form confidently, knowing what the HIPAA laws entailed. However, the following forms I signed I did not sign confidently because I had no idea what they were for. Some people may question why I signed the following forms if I did not know what they were for, and looking back at my experience I wish I would have asked. However, while I was laying in a hospital bed suffering from the symptoms of dehydration and a viral infection, I was in no mindset to ask what I was agreeing to. At that point in my life I would have consented to almost anything to stop the undesirable symptoms that circulated through my body.

When I met with Professor McCoy today I asked her if my experience would be an appropriate topic to talk about on the blog because it was a personal topic. Professor McCoy reassured me that this topic would be appropriate for the blog, if I was comfortable sharing my experience. I believe that this experience is important for me to share because some students enrolled in this course are planning on entering the medical field, and as Professor McCoy pointed out to me that at some point in our lives we will all be the patient.

At a certain point in our life we will be a patient, whether we consent to being a patient or not. I believe that as a patient we have a right to know what is being done with our bodies however, as a patient there may be times when you are not in the proper mindset to understand what you are consenting to, similar to how I was. As a patient, I believe it is not only your responsibility to know what you are consenting to, but also the person who is treating you should have the responsibility to provide you with information on what you are consenting to. As I ‌mentioned, I felt confident signing the HIPAA form not only because I knew what they were, but also because the nurse that gave me the form told me what I was signing for. However, the forms that I signed following that the nurse gave no explanation to what I was consenting to, she only directed me where to sign. This is where I have a problem with consent. Not all patients have the time or strength to read the long consent forms. As I signed the forms, I had trouble focusing on where the line to sign my name was because of the migraine I was experiencing after being dehydrated. ‌Others may argue that because I was competent enough to sign my name I was competent enough to read the forms, but as the forms were being given to me with no one else there to help me understand what they were I felt obligated to sign them without understanding them. Luckily, Rochester General Hospital did not take advantage of me and explained to me that medications I would be administered, even if they did not tell me what I was consenting to in the previous forms. I feel that as a patient, doctors and nurses should provide an explanation to both what they will be doing to your body, and what the forms you are signing mean. While‌ there are certain instances that medical professionals must act before a patient gives consent, that is a blog post for another time.

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