The Patient – Physician Relationship and Informed Consent

In the relationship between a patient and surgeon, there is an often unspoken “contract” that implies a level of trust and confidence that the patient has placed in his/her surgeon.  This trust and confidence is something that is very important to Dr. Kaper.  He recognizes that all patients have the choice with whom to place this trust.  The fact that his patients have the confidence to place this trust in him is one of the most rewarding parts of his practice.

A patient undergoing surgery will be asked to sign a formal, legal document known as an “Informed Consent”.  This document is typically written by attorneys to memorialize or document that a conversation was had between surgeon and patient or patient’s family.  This document is signed either at the office or the hospital.  An informed consent document is useful tool to emphasize the importantance of the conversation between you and  your surgeon.

Every surgery has what surgeons will refer to as “Risks and Benefits”.  This is another way of saying what are the “Pros and Cons” of undergoing surgery.  In the world of joint replacement surgery, pros would typically be experiencing pain relief, improved joint mobility and improved quality of life. Cons would include being exposed to the risks of operating on the arthritic joint.  Risks may include:  infections, wound healing problems, fractures, dislocations, injuries to nerve or blood vessels, blood clots, bleeding, implant device complication, and medical or anesthetic complications.  In other words, risks range from mild, self-limiting conditions to severe, life-threatening complications.  It is important to recognize that just because “something went wrong”, it does not mean somebody “did something wrong”.  Situations in which a patient has suffered a complication can be difficult for everyone.  For the patient, their road to recovery may be significantly altered.  For the surgeon, it is often one of the most sobering and humbling part of performing surgery.

The conversation about the “Risks and Benefits” is an essential part of every step along the pre- and post-surgical path.  A patient signing the “informed consent” document therefore is not a stand-alone event.  Dr. Kaper views “informed consent” as a process not a document.  The informed consent process entails all the conversations you may have with Dr. Kaper, his nurse practitioner, his physician assistant or his care team in the office.  This “conversation” starts at the time of your initial consultation when Dr. Kaper will review the treatment options for your condition and carries all the way through your surgery and post-operative care.  We encourage you to be an active participant in this process.  Simply put, if you have a question, ask.  It is our goal to have well informed and well educated patients who understand the realities that are part of the care we provide to our patients.

It is important to recognize that the “contract” between surgeon and patient can be challenged when a part of the care provided does not go as planned. If you experience a complication or have a concern about something that may have occurred during or after surgery, the first and most important thing in such a circumstance is communication.  Call us, come to the office, but don’t sit at home worrying about it without communicating with us. One of Dr. Kaper’s oft repeated sayings is: “If you have a problem but do not let us know, we cannot help you.”

Dr. Kaper’s approach to your “contract” with him is to provide you with the assurance that, no matter the outcome, he will be there to address any problems that arise, so that at the end of the day, the result of the surgery will still be satisfactory.

If there ever is a time when you feel that concerns that you have about your care are not being adequately addressed please let us know immediately.  A simple phone call can sometimes alleviate a patient’s concerns.