Informed consent is the process by which the treating health care provider discloses appropriate information to a competent patient so that the patient may make a voluntary choice to accept or refuse treatment.

It originates from the legal and ethical right the patient has to direct what happens to his or her body and from the ethical duty of the physician to involve the patient in his or her health care.

The essential elements of informed consent include:


  • Reasonable alternatives to the proposed intervention

  • The relevant risks, benefits, and uncertainties related to each alternative

  • The nature of the decision/procedure

  • Assessment of patient understanding

  • The acceptance of the intervention by the patient

  • Reasonable physician standard: what would a typical physician say about this intervention? This standard allows the physician to determine what information is appropriate to disclose. However, this standard is often inadequate, since most research shows that the typical physician tells the patient very little. This standard is also generally considered inconsistent with the goals of informed consent, as the focus is on the physician rather than on what the patient needs to know.

  • Reasonable patient standard: what would the average patient need to know in order to be an informed participant in the decision? This standard focuses on considering what a typical patient would need to know in order to understand the decision at hand.

  • Subjective standard: what would this particular patient need to know and understand in order to make an informed decision? This standard is the most challenging to incorporate into practice, since it requires tailoring information to each patient.