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Catherine Marco


Objective: One of the most important pillars of patient autonomy is informed consent for medical treatment. This study was undertaken to measure patient recall and understanding of consent for treatment among ED patients. Methods: This prospective survey study was conducted at Miami Valley Hospital, an Urban Level 1 Trauma Center. Trained research assistants obtained verbal consent in private patient treatment rooms. Data were collected from the electronic medical record and from a survey questionnaire. Results: A total of 293 patients consented to participate (95% participation rate). The majority of participants stated that they had signed a consent document (N = 272; 93%). A minority of patients read the entire document (7%) or read part of the document (11%). Most patients did not read the document (36%) or received only a verbal explanation (45%). Many patients did not recall anything about what they signed (N = 107; 39%). The most frequently recalled elements of consent included consent for treatment (N = 144; 52%), information regarding finances and billing (N = 36; 13%), and privacy rights (N = 12; 4%). Respondents who said they didn’t know what they had consented to were significantly older (median 56 years) than respondents who remembered something from the consent form (median 47; p=0.01). Conclusion: The majority of ED patients in this study recalled signing a consent document. Most were not aware of elements of the Consent for Treatment document they had signed.