Informed consent can play part in violence
Informed consent has been raised as a potential factor in patient violence after a former patient who claimed to have had a botched vasectomy three years ago opened fire in December at Urology Nevada in Reno. Two persons - the urologist and the shooter - died, and two others were injured.
The shooter had posted Yahoo messages claiming his doctors were responsible for his health problems. He said that he was not informed that vasectomy could cause immune reactions, nerve damage, and back pressure issues.
Although no research has made a connection between informed consent and potential violence, it is always best to ensure patients are well-educated about potential negative side effects, violence experts say.
"When a 'reward' is allocated or a decision is made, people often make a judgment about whether or not the outcome was fair," says Barry Nixon, SPHR, executive director of the National Institute for Prevention of Workplace Violence in Lake Forest, CA, and publisher of The Workplace Violence Prevention eReport. "Add to this the human tendency to imagine 'worst-case scenario' in the absence of other information being provided, and lack of high quality patient education/information becomes a formula for a problem to occur."
When patients are well-informed about possible downsides, they are better prepared for any negative consequences, Nixon says. Thus, they are less likely to allege negative intent on the part of providers or facilities, he says.
"We need to give them sufficient information to make informed decisions," Nixon says. "Doing so will pay tremendous dividends in reducing the likelihood of the person subsequently blaming someone else for negative consequences that may occur, which is the beginning stage of a flame that can rage into violence."
Also, monitoring what patients are writing online about your program can help you address negative posts early, sources say. (For more information on monitoring online comments, see stories in the April and May 2012 issues of Same-Day Surgery.)