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Are We Meeting the Current Standards of Consent for Anesthesia? An International Survey of Clinical Practice

Tomas Jovaisa, Ieva Norkiene, Juri Karjagin, Iveta Golubovska, Lukas Gambickas, Migle Kalinauskaite, Evaldas Kauzonas, Dhuleep Wijayatilake

Clinic of Anesthesiology, Lithuanian University of Health Sciences, Kaunas, Lithuania

Med Sci Monit 2020; 26:e925905

DOI: 10.12659/MSM.925905

Available online: 2020-08-18

Published: 2020-10-05

BACKGROUND: International application of existing guidelines and recommendations on anesthesia-specific informed consent is limited by differences in healthcare and legal systems. Understanding national and regional variations is necessary to determine future guidelines.
MATERIAL AND METHODS: Anonymous paper surveys on their practices regarding anesthesia-specific patient informed consent were sent to anesthesiologists in Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania.
RESULTS: A total of 233 responses were received, representing 36%, 26%, and 24% of the practicing anesthesiologists in Lithuania, Latvia, and Estonia, respectively. Although 85% of responders in Lithuania reported using separate forms to secure patient informed consent for anesthesia, 54.5% of responders in Estonia and 50% in Latvia reported using joint forms to secure patient informed consent for surgery and anesthesia. Incident rates were understated by 14.2% of responders and overstated by 66.4% (P<0.001), with the latter frequently quoting incident rates that are several to tens of times higher than those published internationally. Physicians obtaining consent in the outpatient setting were more satisfied with the process than those obtaining consent on the day of surgery, with 62.5% and 42.6%, respectively, agreeing that the informed consent forms provided a satisfactory description of complications (P=0.03). Patients were significantly less likely to read consent information when signing forms on the day of surgery than at earlier times (8.5% vs. 67.5%, P<0.001). Only 46.2% of respondents felt legally protected by the current consent process.
CONCLUSIONS: Anesthesia-specific informed patient consent practices differ significantly in the 3 Baltic states, with these practices often falling short of legal requirements. Efforts should be made to improving information accuracy, patient autonomy, and compliance with existing legal standards.

Keywords: Anesthesia, Consent Forms, Informed Consent