World population estimates for 2030 show that there will likely be 1 billion older adults, which will account for 13 percent of the entire population. As people live longer, they may be confronted with the need for surgical procedures that require giving informed consent. Informed consent is a complex process that has ethical and legal implications for the health care professionals who are tasked with obtaining it. Therefore, the purpose of this qualitative study was to explore and describe the experience of giving informed consent in a Mexican American older adult who had undergone outpatient surgery. This research study was conducted to understand the experience of giving informed consent from the first person perspective, which is important to inform and guide clinical practice and research.
A hermeneutic phenomenological methodology was utilized to answer the following research question: What is the experience of giving informed consent in Mexican American older adults who have undergone outpatient surgery? An in-depth, one-on-one interview and field notes were used to explore and describe the experience of giving informed in one Mexican American older adult, aged 74 years. Thematic analysis was utilized to identify meaningful themes that were characterized through the data.
Based on interpretation of this older adult’s narrative, multiple themes became apparent in the experience of giving informed consent. The older adult’s informed consent historical and educational experiences merged to influence his perceptions of how the experience of giving informed consent changed with age and education. In a historical context, this older adult described how he experienced informed consent in early adolescence and later in life. In an educational context, this older adult described how his educational level helped him to understand the health-related information about outpatient cataract surgery. For this older adult, the essence and meaning of informed consent included being prepared by receiving health-related information from the interprofessional health care team, being aware of what the proposed surgery entailed, and being given the freedom to make an autonomous, informed choice.
In this qualitative study, this researcher provides foundational evidence that the experience of giving informed consent can potentially change with age and education. This older adult’s ‘being in the world’ was a personified experience in which he described how the historical and educational contexts of the experience influenced his choice of giving informed consent. These findings about the informed consent experience from the first person perspective can be used to aid interprofessional clinicians, educators, researchers, and policy-makers to develop age-appropriate interventions in informed consent, and, ultimately, to improve the surgical informed consent process for the vulnerable older adult population. Future research with a larger sample of participants is needed to further understand the meaning of giving informed consent in Mexican American older adults.