Informed consent for invasive procedures in the emergency department

Am J Emerg Med. 2021 Jan;39:114-120. doi: 10.1016/j.ajem.2020.01.035. Epub 2020 Jan 28.


Background: Informed consent for procedures in the emergency department (ED) challenges practitioners to navigate complex ethical and medical ambiguities. A patient's altered mental status or emergent medical problem does not negate the importance of his or her participation in the decision-making process but, rather, necessitates a nuanced assessment of the situation to determine the appropriate level of participation. Given the complexities involved with informed consent for procedures in the ED, it is important to understand the experience of key stakeholders involved.

Methods: For this review, we searched Medline, the Cochrane database, and for studies involving informed consent in the ED. Inclusion and exclusion criteria were designed to select for studies that included issues related to informed consent as primary outcomes. The following data was extracted from included studies: Title, authors, date of publication, study type, participant type (i.e. adult patient, pediatric patient, parent of pediatric patient, patient's family, or healthcare provider), number of participants, and primary outcomes measured.

Results: Fifteen articles were included for final review. Commonly addressed themes included medical education (7 of 15 studies), surrogate decision-making (5 of 15 studies), and patient understanding (4 of 15 studies). The least common theme addressed in the literature was community notification (1 of 15 studies).

Conclusions: Studies of informed consent for procedures in the ED span many aspects of informed consent. The aim of the present narrative review is to summarize the work that has been done on informed consent for procedures in the ED.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Comprehension*
  • Emergency Service, Hospital / ethics*
  • Humans
  • Informed Consent / ethics*
  • Randomized Controlled Trials as Topic
  • Surgical Procedures, Operative*