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December 12, 1980

Informed Consent: IV

Author Affiliations

From the Division of Corporate Law, American Medical Association, Chicago.

JAMA. 1980;244(23):2661-2662. doi:10.1001/jama.1980.03310230057030

ONE of the basic themes underlying this discussion of informed consent law is that of uncertainty. Although the basic contours of the doctrine are well defined, the details regarding its application to specific situations are extremely unclear.

This uncertainty is most apparent with respect to two aspects of the informed consent law. First, it is unclear how much information a physician must disclose to obtain an informed consent from a patient. This is particularly true where the court has adopted a material risk approach to informed consent cases. As was stated in Canterbury vs Spence [464 F 2d 772, 788 (DC 1972)], "there is no bright line separating the significant from the insignificant." A physician can often do no more than guess as to whether a jury will consider a particular risk to be material to a patient's decision. But the disclosure requirement is often no less clear under a