Background: Respect for autonomy and the right to self-determination require informed consent of patients before any medical procedure. So far the majority of empirical studies on informed consent deal mainly with single aspects e. g. delivery and recall of information and legal questions from a physicians' perspective. In our study we examine the quality of informed consent to psychopharmacological treatment from the perspective of patients with schizophrenia and depression in a German university department of psychiatry.
Methods: Face to face interviews using a structured questionnaire by a research psychiatrist. The participants taking part in this study were inpatients diagnosed with schizophrenia and depression. All patients received medication for their condition.
Results: Half of the patients rated the information they received and the process of informed consent positive. Only a minority recalls information regarding the aim and the risks of the treatment. 20 % indicated that they have been informed about alternative treatment options. A quarter of the patients did not know that they had a right to refuse any treatment.
Conclusion: Compared with studies including patients with somatic illnesses the participants in our study judge the process of informed consent rather critical. The results need to be discussed in the light of the special aspects of psychopharmacological treatment and different cultural and institutional settings.