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October 22, 2001

Informed Consent in Complementary and Alternative Medicine

Arch Intern Med. 2001;161(19):2288-2292. doi:10.1001/archinte.161.19.2288

THE INCREASING popularity of complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) poses serious challenges for the physician, not the least being the issue of informed consent. Herein, we review the implications of informed consent. Informed consent should include adequate information about the risks and benefits of all treatment options. The information about potential risks, including frequent, nonserious adverse affects as well as infrequent serious complications, is crucial for patients to know. Failure to disclose the availability, benefits, and risks of CAM treatments could give rise to malpractice claims. We discuss the existing US case law and several hypothetical scenarios. The ethical rules physicians follow in conventional care usually can be applied to treatment with CAM. The focus must be on expressing risks clearly, documenting informed consent adequately, and keeping up-to-date with the emerging evidence on CAM.

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