Informed Consent: What is it and Why should we care?
This topic is something I speak about often but I feel like there is a need to fully explain it so we are all on the same page. From Wordnik, a simple definition of informed consent is “Consent by a patient to a surgical or medical procedure or participation in a clinical study after achieving an understanding of the relevant medical facts and the risks involved.”
Sounds great right? It should be common sense. The problem is that it isn’t something that is happening at all in the “health” field. I was thinking about my own experience and the experiences of the hundreds of people I’ve spoken to about this issue. We’ve been trained to blindly trust doctors and not think for ourselves. We just do what we’re told and we don’t understand that there can be long term side effects for the drugs that doctors give us.
A typical scenario:
You get a mild infection of some sort so you make an appointment with your doctor. They might run a few tests or they might just spend a few minutes with you and hand you a script to fill. They tell you how often to use it and promise you’ll feel better in a few days, and send you on your merry way. You fill the script, take it as directed, and your infection symptoms go away but then you start developing symptoms you’ve never had before: joint pain, headaches, trouble sleeping, and gut pain. You go back to the doctor, they give you a new script for the new symptoms. Continue to repeat this cycle for awhile (sometimes years) until you *hopefully* wake up and realize that this is insanity.
Once you “wake up” you start researching the drugs you were taking at one point and realize the laundry list of symptoms associated with its use. You get angry! Why weren’t you told about these possible symptoms or reactions? You realize you would have never taken this drug if you knew the risks, but you weren’t informed that it could great chronic health issues just to “cure” a small infection. Why are there so many side effects from a seemingly common drug that is used so often? You have so many questions and you start digging into it all. Are we deliberately being lied to and these doctors are hiding the potential risks for these drugs? Are they just not aware of the side effects, or they just don’t think it’s important to warn people of possible issues because then how would they get repeat customers? What is the truth?!
Birth Control is a one of the most commonly prescribed drugs with serious side effects and NO informed consent
I already have a full article on this topic, but it is the best example to use. Birth control is one of the absolute WORST things out there. Women are made to believe it is their responsibility to take hormonal birth control to prevent pregnancy. Or they are told that it is the ONLY to manage the hormonal symptoms they deal with. In reality, there are now many studies and reports about how detrimental birth control is to women’s health. It is linked to increased risk of suicide, depression, mental illness, blood clots, cancers, tumors, and so much more. Just read the package insert for the current pill you’re using right now if you’re on hormonal birth control, or search online for the information and see the side effects for yourself.
Almost a half a million women were studied over the course of about 8 years that used hormonal birth control. The peak time for a first suicide attempt was only 2 months after beginning to use birth control. They found that women using hormonal contraception were at triple the risk to attempt suicide than those that were not using it. (main source here and the more detailed explanation here).
This is beyond infuriating. Women are made to deal with these symptoms of birth control and are made to feel like they HAVE to use it for various reasons. The burden of this almost always falls to the woman to be responsible- even though we are only fertile a few days out of the month, while men are able to create children 24/7. Meanwhile, there have been reports over the years of finding ways to make birth control for men but the side effects were deemed to serious and it was scrapped. (source). Just another case of women’s health issues being ignored in general!
How to Be Informed
We are our own best advocates, period. In order to make informed choices when it comes to our health, we need to do a few main things.
Ask questions. RESEARCH. Read package inserts on the drugs you’re being prescribed. Look for other people that have been hurt by these drugs before (Facebook has many groups for people dealing with health issues like Breast Implant Illness, side effects from benzo drugs, etc). Get second opinions if needed.
Trust your instincts. Don’t always trust the media. Be aware of censorship (recently, Pinterest has been deleting accounts that are associated with sharing information about the risks of vaccines that are not spoken about, but if you actual read the package inserts yourself, you’ll find all of these side effects in there directly from the companies that make or sell them). Find doctors or practitioners that you can actually trust to have your best interests at heart.