What is informed consent? Informed consent obviously means if you are being given drugs you should know the common and potential adverse affects, drug interactions, risk of dependency and addiction, and counter-indications with other substances, health conditions or health concerns. This is the baseline of informed consent (which many people don’t receive) but there is an incredible amount more that is included in what you deserve to know about any drug you are prescribed or medical system you are advised to subscribe to. Informed consent includes adequate, transparent knowledge of the following things:
- When, where and how did the system of medicine begin and evolve? Who had a voice in the forming of the theories behind the system? In the field of psychiatry (or any Western Medical field) you might ask whether poor people, women and non-white people were part of the “discovery” (or invention) of these fields.
- How does the medical field advertise (directly and indirectly)? This is your health and your life — financial transparency is required for there to be informed consent. You need to know if you believe in a system of medicine because they advertise in the magazines you read (and if their financial support blocks articles that would challenge their drugs efficacy), if their ads and financial clout affect your news and other media, and that of your friends, family and extended community, all of which make up your reality and affect your judgment. In the case of psychiatry (and other Western medicine), most funding goes to indirect advertising in the form of “consumer advocacy groups” and “grassroots self-help groups” like NAMI. For true informed consent, you have to have a good idea of where pharmaceutical money is going before making a decision. As Americans we’ve been so abused by the patriarchal and violent medical system, we are like abused or neglected children who come to believe this is all we deserve.
- Informed consent is knowing at least 20 other possible explanations for your experiences than the Western medical model so you are choosing which one to go with rather than accepting the one that pharmaceutical companies paid billions of dollars to put in front of your face in every corner of your world. For true informed consent, study models from all different cultures and times in history before consenting.
- Informed consent is having options that are affordable. For true informed consent you should have at least 20 choices of types of medicine, counseling or other healing modalities to choose from and they should all be affordable and accessible. If your insurance only covers one or 2 choices, you don’t have access to informed consent since you may not be able to afford to try other models for comparison.
- Informed consent is knowing what the financial ties are between drug companies, hospitals, doctors, insurance companies, the government, the media and educational institutions. (Ha!)
- Informed consent is knowing the fears, motivations, history and trauma history of your doctor and anyone else who prescribes a system of medicine to you-officially or by suggestion.
Informed consent is the largest history book and encyclopedia you’ve ever seen and informed consent lies in the rising and falling of your own breath-it lies within you.
Informed consent is knowing what is in your food, water and air and why. Who profits?
Informed consent is the voice within you, quiet or loud, the feeling you get of trust or distrust about a person, place or decision.
Informed consent doesn’t always have to be explained — sometimes it’s something you just know.
Informed consent is knowing which questions to ask; it’s withdrawing from mainstream media and pop culture enough to develop your own prescience. Once you develop that, informed consent become secondary to your inner wise self who is so much larger than a diagnostic medical system.
No one is going to give you complete informed consent. The best a doctor can do is give you the information they have, encourage you to do your own research, admit that their system has holes and encourage you to follow your own feelings, intuitions and to make your own decision. Of course our decisions are biased and affected by the water we’re swimming in, but no one will spoon feed you complete informed consent. When we are healing ourselves, we are also healing the cultural narrative, the history, biology and medicine of many years and many other people. Being one person who finds what informed consent means for you — and commits to it — is a powerful force and source of healing for all beings. Healing is never isolated, never isolated in a person, a relationship, a time period, a system of medicine, a pill bottle or a doctors office.
Healing is big. It’s about everything. It’s as big as that history book and encyclopedia about informed consent and maybe a bit bigger. Don’t let psychiatry make you small, projecting its insecurities and inadequacies onto you. Of course a form of medicine that is so limited will tell you you are so limited too. It’s a lie. You aren’t. Your voice and truth and fight for informed consent is huge and getting larger everyday. There’s no turning back now.
Healing with informed consent is a state of expansion. It’s all seeing, all knowing, all wise. It’s light years larger than the DSM. It’s you.
Mad in America hosts blogs by a diverse group of writers. These posts are designed to serve as a public forum for a discussion—broadly speaking—of psychiatry and its treatments. The opinions expressed are the writers’ own.