One of the significant drivers of bariatric surgery-related litigation from the plaintiff’s viewpoint is a lack of information about the risks and benefits of the various possible procedures. Each procedure is different and carries with it unique risks and benefits. Therefore, each procedure should have its own informed consent form describing the surgery in general terms that a layperson can understand. This consent form should lay out the complications that are specific to that particular procedure. The consent form should also indicate any late term nutritional complications that could result from the procedure and the likelihood of their occurrence.
The consent form should also tell patients that complying with the bariatric surgery program’s recommendations is essential for success. Additionally, patients need to have realistic expectations about their potential weight loss. For example, a patient who has an adjustable gastric band should expect to lose less weight than a patient who has a duodenal switch. Expected weight loss may also inform the patient’s choice of operation, and the informed consent process and document should include weight loss expectations for each specific procedure.
Given the complexity of bariatric procedures currently being offered, it is essential that each procedure has a specific and separate informed consent form—one written in language that patients can understand and that includes language regarding compliance with recommendations and the risks of noncompliance. The consent form must address the risks inherent to each unique procedure, define alternatives to the procedure, and include expectations regarding weight loss.