Public Opinion Regarding Consent to Treatment

“Public Opinion Regarding Consent to Treatment” (1993) 41 Journal of the American Geriatric Society 112-116 (with P.A. Singer & J. Armstrong).

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This article examines public opinion regarding certain elements of consent: disclosure, advance directives, substitute decisions, emergency and advocacy, drawing on a randomly-selected sample of adults (n=1000) living in Ontario. With regard to disclosure, 33% of respondents said that a doctor should withhold information from a patient if asked to do so by the patient’s family. With regard to advance directives, 36% of respondents had had advance discussions with their families, and 12% had completed a living will. With regard to substitute decisions, 77% of respondents said that they would want their wishes followed if they were unable to make medical decisions for themselves; 58% wanted their spouse or partner to make such decisions for them. With regard to emergency treatment, 48% of respondents stated that a doctor should give a life-saving blood transfusion to an unconscious adult carrying a card stating that blood transfusion was against his or her religious beliefs. These data highlight the need to reconsider legislative provisions and/or target public education programs toward specific consent-related issues.