Prior to surgery, you will receive a careful explanation of the procedure, its purpose, any risks, and the expected outcome. You may also be asked to sign an "informed consent" form, which states in detail that you understand everything involved with your surgery. You should read through the consent carefully before signing it. If you have any questions or need more information, ask your physician.
What are advance directives?
In certain surgeries, where significant risks are involved, hospital staff may encourage you to prepare "advance directives." Advance directives are legal documents that state a patient's preference in treatment and resuscitation - if the patient is unable to speak for himself or herself. There are two types of advance directives:
Living Will - This document states a patient's wishes in the withholding or withdrawing of life support, if the patient suffers from an incurable and terminal condition.
Durable Power of Attorney for Healthcare - This document designates another person to make healthcare decisions if the patient is no longer able to make them. This designated person also has the power to make the final decision about cessation of treatment.
What about minors consent to medical care?
Parental consent is required for any diagnostic procedure or surgery on a pre-adolescent child. However, "emancipated" adolescents may consent to their own medical care. An emancipated adolescent is someone who meets any of the following criteria:
Attends college away from home
Has a child
Is in the military service
What happens when the adult patient cannot consent?
Sometimes an adult patient cannot make decisions (temporarily or permanently) about medical care, either because of accidental unconsciousness, confusion due to old age, or severe illness. In those instances, a family member will be asked to make any necessary medical decisions.