• Question: Can my staff members participate in the informed consent discussion and even get the patient’s signature?

    Answer: Your staff may participate in the informed consent process, and they may be ideally suited to do so, especially if they have an existing rapport with patients. Patients may be more comfortable asking questions of a staff member than the physician. Remember, informed consent occurs before the patient signs the form, so be sure that the patient has ample opportunity to ask questions.

    Staff members may also obtain the patient’s signature. First. though, you must personally confirm the patient’s understanding of the risks, benefits and alternatives to the proposed procedure and ensure that all the patient’s questions have been answered to the best of your ability. This kind of personal communication also increases patient trust in you as a physician, which can be helpful for patient compliance and avoiding legal claims. As stated in Code of Ethics Rule 2, “The operating ophthalmologist must personally confirm with the patient or patient surrogate their (his or her) comprehension…” of the information discussed.

    If staff are involved in any part of the informed consent process, you may wish to document in the patient record all participants in this process.

    For more information, visit aao.org/ethics-detail/code-of-ethics and scroll down to informed consent. To submit a question, contact the Ethics Committee at ethics@aao.org.