J Manipulative Physiol Ther. 1998 Jun; 21(5): 348-55.
Informed consent: an Australian case study.
Department of Chiropractic, Osteopathy and Complementary Medicine, Faculty of Biomedical and Health Sciences, RMIT, Bundoora, Victoria, Australia.
OBJECTIVE: Informed consent, as practiced in Australian chiropractic practice, was explored by means of a collective case study. DESIGN: Twenty-one chiropractic practices were visited and 25 chiropractor-patient units explored. Purposive sampling of practitioners was undertaken using a maximum variation strategy. Convenience sampling of patients was performed within each participating practice. Data was gathered from each chiropractor-patient unit, consisting of one practitioner and usually five patients, by means of practitioner interview, patient questionnaire and interview and, in certain cases, practice observation. Thematic analysis of the interviews were correlated with information derived from the patient questionnaires and validated by selective practice observation. Data was compared within and across chiropractor-patient units. RESULTS: Consent for chiropractic care was usually implied. Chiropractors in this study seldom obtained formal verbal, and never written, informed consent. New chiropractic patients were nonetheless informed about the procedures that the chiropractor intended to perform, and their acquiescence was taken as consent. Participants seldom discussed the potentially serious consequences of chiropractic adjustment but did actively attempt to identify and avoid exposing at-risk patients. Patients were often counseled about potential muscle soreness after the chiropractic adjustment. The behavior of chiropractors in this study was consistent with their patients' expectations. CONCLUSION: This study suggests that chiropractic behavior in Australian clinical practice meets the moral, but not all of the legal, requirements for informed consent.