Contents and readability of currently used surgical/ procedure informed consent forms in Nigerian tertiary health institutions

  • ER Ezeome
  • PI Chuke
  • IV Ezeome
Keywords: Contents, informed consent forms, Nigeria, readability, surgery


Background: Surgical informed consent forms should have evidence that their use will enhance a shared decision-making which is the fundamental objective of informed consent in clinical practice. In the absence of any guideline in Nigeria on the content and language of informed consent forms, we sort to examine the surgical and procedure consent forms used by Federal tertiary health institutions in Nigeria, to know whether they fulfill the basic elements of informed consent.
Materials and Methods: The surgical and procedure informed consent forms of 33 tertiary health institutions in Nigeria were assessed for their readability and contents. Adequacy of their content was evaluated based on provision for 28 content items identified as necessary information to be provided in a good consent form. The potential of the forms to be comprehended were assessed with Flesch readability formula.
Results: The contents of majority of the forms were scant. None of the forms made provision for documentation of the patient’s permission for blood transfusion, tissue disposal, awareness of the risks of not undergoing the prescribed treatment, and the risk of anesthesia. Risk disclosures were only mentioned in specific terms in 11.4% of the forms. Less than 10% of the forms made provisions for an interpreter, signature of anesthetists, alternative to the procedure to be mentioned, and answering of the patient’s questions. The Flesch reading ease scores of the forms ranged from 34.1 (Difficult) to 67.5 (Standard), with a mean score of 55.2 (Fairly difficult level). Field evaluation of the forms show that they shall be partly understood by 13- to 15-year-old patients with basic education but are best understood by literate adult patients.
Conclusion: The content of majority of the informed consent forms used in Nigerian tertiary health institutions are poor and their readability scores are not better than those used in developed parts of the world. Health Institutions in Nigeria should revise their informed consent forms to improve their contents and do a usability trial on the sample forms before deployment in order to ensure that they are comprehensible for their patient population.

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eISSN: 1119-3077