How Should Clinicians Discuss the Side Effects of Medications?
While studying for a certification exam, I came across a question that stayed with me well after taking the practice test. The case discussed a patient who was prescribed antibiotics by his physician for a presumed bacterial illness and then returned the following week with an antibiotic-associated diarrheal infection. The test question then asked what could be concluded from this case. The answer: informed consent (i.e., patient permission for a medical intervention) was not properly obtained because the risks of the antibiotics were not completely discussed between the physician and patient.
This nasty diarrheal infection that can develop after antibiotic treatment is not an unheard-of side effect, but it certainly isn’t the most common or most serious ailment that plagues this class of medications. Most drug profiles, including most antibiotics, involve dozens of potential side effects, covering a wide range of common to uncommon and bothersome to life-threatening reactions.
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