Legal and psychological considerations for obtaining informed consent for reverse total shoulder arthroplasty

Shoulder Elbow. 2017 Jan;9(1):15-22. doi: 10.1177/1758573216652082. Epub 2016 Jun 21.


This paper seeks to outline recent legal developments and requirements pertinent to obtaining informed consent. We argue that this is of particular relevance to patients considering a reverse total shoulder arthroplasty, due to the high complication rate associated with this procedure. By examining the cognitive processes involved in decision-making, and other clinician-related factors such as delivery of information, gender bias and conflict of interest, we explore some of the barriers that can undermine the processes of shared decision-making and obtaining genuine informed consent. We argue that these issues highlight the importance for surgeons in understanding the cognitive processes and other influential factors involved in patients' comprehension and decision-making. We recommend, based on strong evidence, that decision aids could prove useful in overcoming such challenges and could provide one way of mitigating the ethical, professional and legal consequences of failing to obtain proper informed consent. They are not widely used in orthopaedics at present, although it would be in the interests of both the surgeon and patient for such measures to be explored.

Keywords: cognitive processes; decision aids; decision-making; duty of care; heuristics; informed consent; legal considerations; medical negligence; reverse total shoulder replacement; risks.

Publication types

  • Review