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Anaesthetists' and surgeons' attitudes towards informed consent in the UK: an observational study

AAB Jamjoom12*, S White3, SM Walton4, JG Hardman12 and IK Moppett12

Author Affiliations

1 Nottingham University Medical School, Queen's Medical Centre, Nottingham, NG7 2UH, UK

2 University Department of Anaesthesia, Queen's Medical Centre, Nottingham, NG7 2UH, UK

3 Department of Anaesthesia, Royal Sussex County Hospital, Brighton, BN2 5BE, UK

4 Department of Anaesthesia, Eastbourne District General Hospital, Eastbourne, BN21 2UD, UK

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BMC Medical Ethics 2010, 11:2  doi:10.1186/1472-6939-11-2

Published: 23 February 2010



The attitudes of patients' to consent have changed over the years, but there has been little systematic study of the attitudes of anaesthetists and surgeons in this process. We aimed to describe observations made on the attitudes of medical professionals working in the UK to issues surrounding informed consent.


A questionnaire made up of 35 statements addressing the process of consent for anaesthesia and surgery was distributed to randomly selected anaesthetists and surgeons in Queen's Medical Centre (Nottingham), Royal Sussex County Hospital (Brighton) and Eastbourne District General Hospital (Eastbourne) during 2007. Participants were asked to what extent they agreed with statements regarding consent.


Of 234 questionnaires distributed, 63% were returned. Of the respondents 79% agreed that the main purpose of the consent process is to respect patient autonomy. While 55% of the examined cohort agreed that the consent process maybe inappropriate as patients do not usually remember all the information given to them. Furthermore, 84% of the participants agreed that what the procedure aims to achieve should be explained to the patient during the consent process. While of the participants, over 70% agreed that major risks of incidence greater than 1/100 should be disclosed to the patient as part of the consent process.


The majority of respondents appear to hold attitudes in standing with current guidelines on informed consent however there was still a significant minority who held more paternalistic views to the consent process bringing into question the need for further training in the area.