The Potential Perils of Informed Consent

Abstract

protecting the institution than protecting the experimental subject. We argued that perhaps these individuals would be better off if they got a description of the general level of risk, but detailed risk possibilities, or even very slight risks, ought to be reserved for those who request them. And if the detailed information is given, it ought to be accompanied by a discussion of placebo effects – why they occur, and how to guard against them. Critics were quick to jump on these ideas, arguing that the " right to full information on matters which may affect our minds and bodies prevails " (3). They accused us of displaying a distressing failure to make a distinction between rights and benefits. We were astonished that our critics would so readily construe a statement intended to be made in favor of human rights as an attack upon such rights. Of course, people have the right to determine what is done to their minds and bodies, but this must extend to symptoms and illness actually caused by poorly executed disclosure. We question, informed by our knowledge of the power of placebos, whether the current legalistic ritual associated with informed consent is the best way to ensure that this human right is protected. We only ask that those whose task it is to formulate informed consent rituals pay some attention to the harm that may be caused by the ritual itself. One harm is the planting of suggested symptoms, some of which can be rather unpleasant, such as anxiety, or downright distressing, such as severe physiological reactions. Would the critics actually endorse the idea that those involved in formulating these rituals have a right to harm people? Patients and subjects might be far less damaged by smaller amounts of balanced information than by mammoth descriptions of remote possibilities. We always advocated supplying the information to those who choose to know all, but to include in the presentation of the " all " a discussion of placebo effects and their potential for adverse reactions. At the time we were immersed in this issue, we Informed consent is supposed to be a good thing, isn't it? Motherhood, apple pie, and informed consent. After all, we don't want the return of the bad old days when unwitting human guinea pigs were experimented upon without knowing what they were getting into. But there is another side to informed consent; …

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@article{Loftus2008ThePP, title={The Potential Perils of Informed Consent}, author={Elizabeth Loftus and James F. Fries}, journal={McGill Journal of Medicine : MJM}, year={2008}, volume={11}, pages={217 - 218} }