Anatomy of Words: Consent

consent collage: Paper collage, polymer


significant risk quilt: Paper examination gown, thread, pencil, pencil crayon, photographs, lace, polymer, paper collage


The American Medical Association (2008) says that consent forms are written at a level of language that “even patients with average reading levels are often unable to understand” (p. 15). Although healthcare providers must ensure that patients understand what they are signing, how well does the process really work? Egbert & Nanna (2009) contend that healthcare providers are pressured to increase the number of patients they see in a day which leaves little time for thorough consultations. Making matters worse is that patients are often reluctant or unable to ask for clarification (p. 3).

Consent Collage, made of clipped and torn bits from various consent documents, shows what it could be like for a person with low literacy to understand and make critical health decisions based on reading an unclear form.

Quilts are typically associated with warmth and comfort, but Significant Risk Quilt is made of coarse paper examination gowns and hand-drawn hospital floor plans. It prompts the patient to be alert and focused on the direction of their medical care. The quilt also reminds healthcare providers to clearly explain the important parts of a consent form to their patients: first parse the legal information and second, provide an explanation of the health implications.  Like quilt making, effective results take time, energy, and patience.


Next page:


Return to Anatomy of Words