Neuroethics 7 (1):11-18 (2014)

Grant Gillett
University of Otago
The aim of this paper was to explore the issue of consent when considering the use of a life saving but not necessarily restorative surgical intervention for severe traumatic brain injury. A previous study has investigated the issue amongst 500 healthcare workers by using a two-part structured interview to assess opinion regarding decompressive craniectomy for three patients with varying injury severity. A visual analogue scale was used to assess the strengths of their opinions both before and after being shown objective outcome data. Opinions were assessed in a number of scenarios, one of which was that the participants themselves were the injured party. The implication, which was clearly stated, was whether they would provide consent for the procedure to be performed. The study demonstrated that participants were relatively risk aversive in regards to survival with severe disability especially when the injury was severe and there was high probability of that outcome occurring. This finding was not however universal and a minority of participants would provide consent even when the possibility of survival with severe disability was very high. The obvious difficulty comes when considering consent in patients who are unable to express their wishes. In order to address this issue we propose a model of consent based on a balance of the various factors that seem to be of material relevance. These include the severity of the injury, the willingness or otherwise to accept survival with severe disability and the willingness to “risk” the possibility of an unacceptable outcome in order to achieve an acceptable outcome
Keywords Consent  Ethics  Traumatic brain injury
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DOI 10.1007/s12152-012-9175-3
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