Not all treatments your doctor offers are actually therapeutic. In fact there’s an astounding quantity of sanctioned quackery available to individuals who are willing to purchase “non-therapies.”
There are few requirements that your doctor tell you that your surgery may not be helpful. Most states expect basic disclosure. Basic medical ethics and informed consent generally will require that your doctor explain risks of the procedure.
But your doctor may not know anything about the effectiveness of the procedure (beyond the personal enrichment associated with performing the procedure). You should question every procedure extensively. You should be comfortable that there is genuine possibility of improvement.
After all, you’re the patient. The procedure should be performed for your benefit not for the financial enrichment of your doctor.
Over at KevinMD there’s a great post by Richard Gunderman (Chancellor’s Professor, Indiana University) and James Lynch (Dean of Admissions, University of Florida College of Medicine). In the post they authors bemoan the fact that informed consent documents have become impenetrable aggregations of legalese in comprehensible to almost everyone.
However, the authors only hint at the most important point. Informed consent is the mutual understanding arrived at between two entities. Informed consent may be guided by the massive document to which the authors refer. The document may be used to memorialize the agreement. But, the document is not the agreement.
The authors refer to a 30+ page “informed consent” document for a cancer study. The average person would find the document entirely incomprehensible. But, the average person might actually sign the document because (s)he believes that the study might offer improved opportunity for survival. The belief is frequently without merit.
Patient have a right to question the care they receive. In particular they should question experimental care. The most important thing any patient should realize-
The purpose of research is NOT to improve your health. The purpose of research is to advance medical knowledge and possibly the career of your physician.
Medical researchers have an irremediable conflict of interest and this conflict of interest will not be in the “informed consent” document. But this conflict of interest may well compromise your health and safety.