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Do I need to understand a hospital consent form?

Most people just give this mountain of legalese a cursory scan, glaze over, and sign where directed, hoping that the hospital hasn’t buried anything too outrageous in the microprint.

But here’s the thing: After my years in medicine, I would pour over those forms with a magnifying glass. And so should you. You not only need to understand what you’re signing but you have a right to expect those forms to be understandable. And in a growing number of hospitals, they are. The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services are prodding hospitals to design patient-friendly informed-consent processes. Hospitals that don’t comply could lose their eligibility to bill Medicare for treatments. The Joint Commission recommends both easy-to-read forms and “teach-back” methods in which the patient is asked to repeat back what he’s been told about the risks and benefits. Even the Department of Veterans Affairs has a new system that’s written at a sixth-grade level and covers more than two thousand procedures in thirty specialties.

Ideally, the hospital you choose will have easy-to understand forms. But don’t sign anything you don’t understand, and do ask for more information if something is unclear. You don’t want to find out unexpectedly that you just underwent a procedure that had a 10 percent long-term success rate, or get home and find that the hospital now holds the mortgage on your house.

From The Smart Parent's Guide: Getting Your Kids Through Checkups, Illnesses, and Accidents by Jennifer Trachtenberg.

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The Smart Parent's Guide: Getting Your Kids Through Checkups, Illnesses, and Accidents

What to Do When You Don't Know What to Do! "Moms and dads need expert guidelines, especially when it comes to their kids' health. This book reveals the inside strategies I use myself-I'm a parent,...

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.