Informed consent: making recommendations for change and bringing issues to the attention of a professional body

In this case, a woman complained about not being fully informed about the fertility implications of procedures she underwent — a hysterectomy and bilateral oophorectomy (removal of reproductive organs). HDC carried out a thorough assessment, with a particular focus on informed consent and the information provided on treatment options prior to the surgery.

Following this, we made a number of recommendations to the health provider for improvement, including:

  • Making it standard practice to inform all patients of the option to seek further advice from a fertility specialist, counsellor, or psychologist, before undergoing any surgery with possible fertility implications

  • Amending the patient consent form to include reference to the patient having stated that they have been informed of their options, understand possible fertility implications, and are aware of their right to seek further advice

  • Developing and providing a resource to all patients who are to undergo procedures with fertility implications, to outline the implications, options available to them, and where they can seek further information.

As an additional step, we also brought the matter to the attention of the Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists (RANZCOG) to encourage the development of collaborative workstreams between obstetricians and gynaecologists and other specialists who can support women who are to undergo surgery with fertility implications.