Patients must have adequate information if they are to play a significant role in making decisions that reflect their own values and preferences, and physicians play a key role as educators in this process.
Many patients may have a limited understanding of medicine, so it is difficult, if not impossible, for a physician to confirm that a patient has given adequately informed consent. Hence, it is almost self-evident that adherence to the doctrine of informed consent requires a physician to disclose enough about the risks and benefits of proposed treatments that the patient becomes sufficiently informed to participate in shared decision making. A practicing physician may find it difficult to strike a balance between too much and too little information. This article will discuss legal standards that define what types of risk and other information a physician must disclose in facilitating informed consent, as well as disclosures that are not legally required.