Role of the consent form in UK veterinary practice
Gray, C. (2020) Role of the consent form in UK veterinary practice Veterinary Record 187 (8) p 318.
The aim of this qualitative study, carried out as part of research for a doctoral thesis, was to investigate the role(s) of the consent form in the consent process in UK veterinary practice.
Blank consent forms were sourced from UK practices by requests placed on social media and direct emails to practices. A total of 39 forms met the inclusion criteria and were subjected to thematic analysis at the level of topical survey (what was included in the form) and thematic summary (the purpose of the form).
All forms analysed provided space for a description of the procedure being undertaken, though with limited space to record any accompanying discussion. Space was also allocated on all forms for either recommending or offering additional procedures that could be performed at the same time as the identified procedure. Estimated cost of treatment was also mentioned on most forms, with some including details of proposed payment method.
Most forms mentioned risks, often described in general terms, as well as a statement regarding consent to use unlicensed products. Several forms also included a statement regarding proceeding without consent in unforeseen circumstances. Clients were required to confirm that they understood these risks, as the owner or owners’ agent, by ticking the relevant box or deleting whichever term was not appropriate.
In the thematic analysis, it was considered that few of the forms provided enough space to describe the procedure in sufficient detail to satisfy the requirements of informed consent and none provided space to document other options for treatment. The forms analysed were non-specific in terms of discussing risks but none of the forms made any reference to the benefits of the proposed procedure. In addition, none of the forms provided space to record any conversation that formed part of the consent process.
The problems associated with the dual role of the consent form, in acting as evidence of a financial contract as well as in authorising treatment, was also highlighted. A suggested model consent form to overcome some of these concerns is provided as supplemental material.
The main limitation of the study is that it was based on a small sample of consent forms which were submitted following a request and analysed by a single researcher. There was no acknowledgement that discussions about treatment options may have been documented in the clinical notes for a patient as part of the informed consent record.
This study provides some evidence on the variety of consent forms in use in veterinary practice and on their role in obtaining informed consent, which will help the continuing conversations in this area. The suggested model consent form could be used to further this conversation, which should involve all stakeholders from across all sectors of the profession.
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