Background: Informed consent is based on the Western notion of autonomy that patients have the right to know about their illnesses and make decisions about their health. However, there may be difficulty in accepting informed consent in Eastern cultures based on Confucianism, such as Korea. Even though nurses have no legal binds to informed consent, they have participated in the process of obtaining informed consent as an administrative assistant in Korea and then have had moral distress. Objectives: The purpose of this study was to investigate nurses' perception of informed consent and their role in establishing a better process of informed consent in Korea. Methods: This exploratory study employed in-depth interviews with nurses. Participants were 12 nurses from selected departments (orthopedics surgery, cardiac surgery, and obstetrics & gynecology) from two university hospitals in Seoul and Kwang-ju, Korea. A semi-structured interview guide was constructed from the literature and used to elicit responses. Results: Content analysis showed that nurses perceived a lot of problems in the process of obtaining informed consent and noted the need to modify this process. Although the role of nurses was found to be insignificant in the process of obtaining informed consent, some nurses wanted to participate in the process in order to advocate for patients and to verify if patients had received the information they needed. Conclusions: Nurses can take a proactive role in the process of informed consent, as advocator as well as witness. This may be influential in balancing patient autonomy with paternalism, changing the skewed patient-physician relationship to one of mutual respect.
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