Understanding and Practice of Informed Consent by Professional Nurses in South Africa: An Empirical Study


Introduction: Informed consent (IC) is a legal and ethical doctrine, constitutionally protected in South Africa through rights to bodily integrity, privacy and self-determination. The National Health Act 2003 codified requirements for IC; stipulating that healthcare professionals (HCPs) must inform patients about diagnosis, treatment risks, benefits, options, and right of refusal. However, multicultural societies are challenged by problems of poverty, education, language, and cultural ethos, which may impact on IC practice. Methods: This was a cross-sectional quantitative study using semi-structured questionnaires conducted at randomly selected public hospitals in Durban city. Data, analysed with SPSS, used descriptive statistics and chi-squared tests to compare results between nurses, doctors and patients. The study was approved by local RECs and IC was obtained from all participants. Results: Three hundred fifty-five registered nurses completed the study. Majority female (92%), (1-41years) professional experience. Information disclosed by nurses included diagnosis (77%); treatment options (68%); benefits (71%), risks (69%), recommended treatment (65%). Inconsistencies observed between nurses and patients included non-disclosure of right of refusal, treatment options and risks (25-41%). Nurses’ knowledge of basic laws like age of consent was deficient, (30%) accuracy. Conclusions: This study showed that professional nurses in South Africa are deficient in knowledge of local regulations regarding IC and would benefit from additional training in healthcare law and ethics. Barriers to IC include language, education, and workload. Provision of trained interpreters will minimize language barriers, reduce nurses’ workload and improve overall quality of healthcare service delivery.

Author Information
Sylvester Chima, University of KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa

Paper Information
Conference: ACERP2017
Stream: Ethics - Medical Ethics

This paper is part of the ACERP2017 Conference Proceedings (View)
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Posted by James Alexander Gordon