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Informed consent: What is it and why is it important

Informed consent: Informed consent is a process in the medical system that help you make decisions. Your care provider provides you with information and answers questions for you. Ultimately, this is so you can decide what is done to you and your body and in this case, your baby. Informed consent applies for everything from prenatal ultrasounds to induction to whether your baby is weighed right after birth.

 

Why is informed consent important?

It respects your right to self-determination, empowers you with the authority to decide what options are in the best interest of you and your baby. Informed consent honours your right to autonomy and your right to the truth (as best as it can be known at the time). It also honours your right to keep yourself and your children safe and free of harm.

 

Care Providers Responsibilities:

You have the legal right to “informed consent” whenever a medical procedure, drug, test, or other treatment is offered. This means your doctor, midwife, or nurse is responsible for explaining:

  • Why this type of care is being offered
  • What it would involve
  • The risks and benefits associated with this type of care
  • Alternatives to this care, and their respective risks and benefits
  • You have the right to refuse any care.
    You have the right to change your mind.
    You have the right to ask for privacy to make decisions.

 

How to make sure you get the information you need

A great tool to help you remember the important aspects of informed consent is the acronym BRAIN.

B stands for benefits. What are the benefits of having the procedure or intervention? This is important to ask about tests as well as treatments. In the case of a test, what are the benefits of knowing the results? How will that effect future treatments? Sometimes the results of a test won’t actually change your plans. If that’s the case there’s not much point in having the test.

R stands for risks. Almost every procedure, test or intervention comes with risks. You have the right to ask what these risks are and how likely they are. You also have the right to ask what the best and worst possible outcomes are.

A stands for alternatives. There is almost always more than one course of action available to you. You have the right to know what they are, and if your care provider doesn’t have an alternative for you then you have the right to ask for a second opinion.

I stands for intuition. Also known as your instincts. You know your body and your baby better than anyone else does, so trust your gut. Asking for some time and privacy to make decisions can help you to tune into your intuition and to get a better idea of what’s right for you.

N stands for no or not right now. What happens if you decide to wait or do nothing? You will probably need to re-do the risks, benefits and alternatives for this option. Watchful waiting is an option and sometimes it is medically indicated.

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This article is meant to provide information only, it does not substitute for personalized medical care.

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