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6 Things to know before signing consent for cosmetic treatments

Perhaps the biggest way to understand that medical aesthetics isn’t the same as hair, nails and beauty, is the fact that in order for us to carry out any procedures on you, it is a legal requirement to consent you for the procedure prior.

While many, if not most people rush to sign the form at the very bottom and may not even properly read it, trusting their technician or doctor, it is in your best interest to not rush this, and to take your time and understand what you are signing up to and for.

In my experience, a lack of attention and proper informed consent can lead to potential misunderstandings when something goes wrong. Think of consent forms as your opportunity to understand what you are saying yes to, and that you understand the risks and side effects - common and rare- as well as what is expected of you - eg a series of treatments in a given timeframe - as well as what you can expect from your doctor in terms of aftercare and followup routinely as well as in the event of a problem.

Many clinics that offer complimentary consultations rely on the quick and cursory consultation that relies on a very brief process before waving a form under your nose to sign before treatment. They largely rely on a high conversion rate on the day (commonly boasting >95%) to generate revenue.

This model does not work for me and feels inherently dishonest to me. Perhaps due to my background as a surgical trainee, I’m aware that consent is important and more than just cursory and often, a cooling off period is needed or a pause if a patient is uncertain, or more scared/ nervous than excited.

So what should a consent form cover to give you peace of mind of an ethical provider?

1. You should understand the risks realistically before signing the form. 

At Skin Essentials, we email all forms out at the time of booking so patients have plenty of time to read, process and look into any potential risks before signing if they are comfortable. On occasion, patients may hold off signing if they have further questions till they are back in for the treatment. Doing this ensures we allow patients enough time to read through the information without feeling rushed into signing.

2. The consent form should outline common and rare risks and side effects of the procedure and note that these are general, and your experience may nonetheless vary. 

No two faces are the same, nor are two faces going to have the same anatomy and potential for complications. Equally, common side effects, while common, may be different for each person. So your consent form should give you some idea of what to expect from best case to worst case scenario so you can proceed with as much information as possible.

3. You should understand the costs, whether results can ever be guaranteed and the importance of the aftercare process or timeframe if appropriate and relevant. 

Costs should be outlined for you, and you should understand what you will pay, your payment options as well as when payment is due as well as a reasonable estimate of any extra you may need to factor in for more, since aesthetics is an inexact science with no guarantees of outcomes.

4. You should be able to access the form to read over well before your planned procedure ideally. 

Ideally, you should have access to the consent form well ahead of your planned procedure so you can read it in your own time, mull risks and side effects as well as downtime and sign with as much knowledge as you can reasonably be expected to have, without any pressure to go ahead.

5. The form may clarify what will happen if you need more treatment, and costs if applicable. 

Due to medical aesthetics being an inexact science, many consent forms will often say things like “we cannot guarantee outcomes, only treatment” as well as costs if you were to end up needing more product than originally budgeted for/ estimated so you understand who’s liable for the cost. Equally, many will state cleary their policy with regards to refunds due to change of mind/ dissatisfaction with outcome etcetera. You should satisfy yourself that you understand all of these before proceeding.

6. You should have access to a copy of your signed consent. 

Lastly, ideally, you should have a copy of your signed consent for your own records in the event of any dispute so you can see exactly what you signed consent to.

Remember, medical aesthetics, unlike beauty, involves machines and procedures that frequently either break skin or go beneath the skin and carry rare but real risks so take your time, ensure you understand the risks and side effects including downtime and costs, to avoid misunderstandings.

Anything else you’d add that you think should be included before signing a consent form?

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