Consent for septoplasty: Are we meeting patients’ expectations?

Medico-Legal Journal, Ahead of Print.
The requirements for informed consent were modified in 2015 following the UK Supreme Court judgment of Montgomery v Lanarkshire Health Board. This marked a decisive shift from the traditional paternalistic ‘doctor knows best’ model towards a more patient-centred approach. This study examines the current standard of consent for septoplasty and whether it complies with the law. We also report whether the ‘reasonable patient’ and surgeon agree about which risks should be discussed during the consent process. Ten complications were identified as common or serious via a literature search. Using questionnaires, 21 Ears, Nose and Throat surgeons were asked which of these they routinely discussed, and 103 patients were asked how seriously they regarded those complications. Results were compared using the Test of Proportions. Most surgeons routinely discuss all risks except negative change in sense of smell and numbness of upper incisors. The ‘reasonable patient’ regarded these two complications as serious or very serious. However, less than 70% of surgeons mentioned them. A significant proportion of Ears, Nose and Throat surgeons do not routinely mention all the risks that the ‘reasonable patient’ would want to know about before undergoing a septoplasty. This may result in more clinical negligence claims, as managing a patient’s reasonable expectations is an important factor.

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