My father was on Diprivan in the hospital. While I was speaking with the doctor in the doorway, the attending nurse went to my dad, took him off the Diprivan for a few seconds and had him sign a consent for treatment. She then turned on the Diprivan and walked out of the room with the clipboard. After I spoke with the doctor, I asked what was on the clipboard, and was told it was a consent for treatment. Is that legal? I thought a sedated patient could not sign any type of consent or legal document within 24 hours of being taken off the sedation.
Dear Nancy replies:
Informed consent is an involved process and you might want to review some of the previous responses in this column dealing with informed consent. Your question centers around competency, and whether or not your father was competent to give his informed consent for further medication.
You did not indicate how long he had been on the medication before it was turned off, then turned on again. It is difficult to know with certainty if his competency to consent to continued treatment was compromised with this medication. One of the principles of informed consent for treatment is that competency is presumed and, if there is a question about it not being present, that must be documented and evaluated by the appropriate healthcare professionals (e.g., physician, psychiatrist).
It sounds as though the actions of the nurse and the physician are of concern to you. One solution you have is to discuss this concern with your father’s physician and/or question nursing staff about what did take place. Also, ask about the facility policy on this issue as it is something you have a right to know. It would be a good idea for you to clear up your concerns as soon as possible so if there is a problem with how and when your father’s informed consent for further medication was obtained, it can be rectified before any further concerns arise.