July 26, 2011 Leave a comment
By Alina Hsu
Perhaps as a result of the body of research documenting physicians’ ignorance of CT radiation risks, Richard C. Smelka, MD, author of a Medscape blog on radiology, reports that a “plethora” of physicians have contacted him about improving the way they inform patients of the risks. He provides three samples of new imaging informed consent forms in this post.
Among those physicians who are aware of the risks, some worry that giving patients accurate information would be too scary, and patients would avoid needed diagnostic scans. There is some anecdotal evidence that this is not the case: patients are quite capable of understanding the small incremental risk and comparing this with the diagnostic value of CT or other imaging tools. Even if it were the case that patients judged the diagnostic scans to be too risky, that is no reason for physicians to fail to disclose the risks: physicians must respect the patient’s judgment. And the second sample in the above post, from Steven Birnbaum, MD of Southern New Hampshire Medical Center is a stellar example of frank, respectful, understandable, and accurate information. (It is also non-scary.)