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…”We wanted to better understand how the process of informed consent occurs for cancer patients who undergo radiotherapy and how difficult it may be for patients to understand the information communicated to them,” says Andrew J. Einstein, MD, PhD, the study’s lead author.

Only nine of 113 forms met the recommended eighth grade readability level, and four forms met a sixth grade level. “Appropriately designed informed consent is critical to ensure patient autonomy and shared decision-making,” says Einstein, associate professor of medicine and director of cardiac CT research at Columbia University Medical Center.

Researchers were surprised at the high reading level required to understand consent forms and how many difficult words appear in informed consent documents. “Ethically, it is important to patients to understand the options available to them,” says Nancy E. Kass, ScD, deputy director for public health at Johns Hopkins Berman Institute of Bioethics. This is particularly important when treatments carry difficult risk/benefit tradeoffs, or when options carry different risks and benefits (e.g., surgery vs. physical therapy for back pain).

…continue reading ‘Complex Language Hinders Informed Consent’

Thumb image via Flickr Attribution Some rights reserved by Kevin Krejci

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Medical Ethics Advisor

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