The decision by a patient to not sign an informed consent form has left her surgeon petrified that she actually read the form. If true, it would represent the first known time ever that a patient, anywhere in the world, has read one of these forms. And if this woman proves to be a trendsetter and other patients follow suit, it could spell disaster for the entire surgical profession.
“Oh Jesus, what the heck happened?!” said her still shellshocked surgeon. “I keep going over the details of our encounter to figure out where it all went wrong. I remember zooming through the form for her cholecystectomy, loudly emphasizing the benefits of the procedure while whispering the risks in a barely audible tone, just like I always do. I explained the alternative was to not do it, but said it in a derisive tone, as if choosing that would be ludicrous. Then I asked “Any questions?” but gave her a look that clearly indicated she was not to ask any questions. Finally I shoved paper and pen in her face and she was about to sign and then….oh crap!
“And then I got an urgent page from a nurse and briefly—very briefly—stepped out of the room to call her back. When I returned a minute later, the form was laying on the counter, unsigned! I repeatedly encouraged her to sign it, but she just wouldn’t do it and wouldn’t tell me why.”
When the humiliated surgeon presented this case at an urgently and very appropriately called Morbidity & Mortality conference the next day, the consensus opinion was that the woman must have read the whole form. His colleagues did not mince words in their criticism of him. “What a putz!” said one furious colleague. “Everyone knows you can’t let the patient read the form. Leaving the patient alone with the form, even for 1 minute, is simply unforgivable! That’s stuff we learned on day 1 of Surgery internship. My goodness, if this gets out, the surgical profession is doomed! No one who reads the form will ever agree to surgery.”
The M&M attendees all decided to keep this horrible event hush-hush. Their hope is that if this news doesn’t get out, patients will continue to willingly sign forms that routinely list “death” as a possible consequence, no questions asked.