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N Engl J Med. 1980 Apr 17;302(16):900-2.

On the readability of surgical consent forms.


A great deal of attention has been paid to ensuring that surgical consent forms have valid content, but little effort has been made to ensure that the average patient can read and understand them. Five representative surgical consent forms were analyzed with two standardized readability tests. The readability of all five was approximately equivalent to that of material intended for upper-division undergraduates or graduate students. Four of the five forms were written at the level of a scientific journal, and the fifth at the level of a specialized academic magazine. I suggest that few consent forms currently in use could pass readability tests. The implication of these findings is that thousands of persons may be undergoing surgery each year on the basis of inadequate consent. The problem has a reasonably simple solution: analysis of all consent forms for readability, and rewriting of those found excessively difficult.

[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
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