Informed Patient Decision Making and the Use of Prescription Medications: A Canadian Dermatologic Perspective

Michael I. Singer and Neil H. Shear

Background: Informed consent is a potentially beneficial component of medical practice and a basic obligation of physician to patient. Society, in general, and the courts, in particular, have increasingly emphasized the principles of individual autonomy and patient rights, and they have begun to more rigorously require physicians to inform and consult with patients before initiating treatments. Nevertheless, the lack of sufficient information disclosure to patients has become an increasingly common allegation in legal actions against physicians. It has been shown that physicians' undertaking of what constitutes informed consent is not always equivalent to the legal definition. While informed consent is generally applied in investigative medical research and before surgical and other invasive procedures, general medicine and dermatology patients do not commonly undergo a process of informed and formal decision making before commencing therapy with sometimes potent medications that often have potentially serious side effects.

Objective: The purpose of this article is to explore and clarify the legal concept of informed consent as it applies to the use of prescription medications and to offer dermatologists a strategy to make drug use safer, both medically and legally.

Conclusion: In light of recent legal trends including the proclamation of the Ontario Consent to Treatment Act, as well as the application of the " learned intermediary" rule in cases of medical negligence involving lack of drug risk disclosure, Canadian health care practioners are well advised to become familiar with the concept of informed consent and how it applies to prescription medications.

Full text available in the print edition / Pour le texte intégral veuillez consulter la version imprimée.

JCMS 1(1) Contents