Why women consent to surgery, even when they don't want to: a qualitative study

Clinical Ethics 1 (3):153-158 (2006)
Although there has been critical analysis of how the informed consent process functions in relation to participation in research and particular ethical 'dilemmas', there has been little examination of consenting to more routine medical procedures. We report a qualitative study of 25 women who consented to surgery. Of these, nine were ambivalent or opposed to having an operation. When faced with a consent form, women's accounts suggest that they rarely do anything other than obey professionals' requests for a signature. An interactionist analysis suggests that women's capacity to act is reduced by the hospital structure of tacit, socially-imposed rules of conduct. Bourdieu's concepts of habitus, capital and symbolic power/violence show how the practical logic that women apply confers a 'sense of place' relative to professionals. Women experience deficits in capital that constrain their ability to exercise choice. This work demonstrates the weakness of the consent process as a safeguard of autonomy
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DOI 10.1258/147775006778246522
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