Disclaimer! Caution: There’s too much information

Even though I am over 40 — by a long shot — I am familiar with the abbreviation TMI. Today, we are inundated with so much noise, chatter and static. I feel that we are bombarded with information that we must sift through and ultimately delete. The news cycle is 24 hours and hits us from so many electronic sources simultaneously. I am deluged each day with so many unwanted and unsolicited emails from organizations that I have never heard of that one of my favorite words on their emails can be found when I scroll to the end. UNSUBSCRIBE!

Another genre of information assault is the panoply of warnings and disclaimers that we confront. Of course, we are all numb since we have been so supersaturated with them. I’ll prove it to you. The next time you are about to take off on an airplane, the flight attendant will review safety information if a catastrophe occurs. While one might think that folks would be attentive to information that might be useful if the plane loses altitude or is headed for a “water landing,” no one is paying any attention at all. Most of us are browsing through the Skymall catalog which showcases amazing gadgets, such as a device that can dispense food to your cat while you’re away. For the cat’s sake, I hope there won’t be a power failure. Moreover, the flight attendants who are issuing the briefings seem more bored than the passengers.

How often do we hear the nonsensical phrase that this product is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease? In other words, we admit our product does nothing, but please buy it for your ailing bones and prostate glands.

How often do we hit the “I Agree” icon, which follows pages of lawyerly small print, just to get to the next page?

We have been over-warned, over-disclosed and over-disclaimed.

While rounding at the hospital, I saw the following sign posted on a coffee machine.

Newsflash! Hot Coffee is Hot!

Look what fear of litigation has done for us. Before litigate-o-mania, we might not have realized that hot coffee is actually hot and might injure us if we spilled its steaming contents onto us. Now, we are all much safer knowing that hot beverages — which we want to be hot — are hot.

Of course, these protections extend beyond steaming drinks. If I were in charge, I’d issue rules and regs that would mandate the following warnings.

Caution: these steak knives are sharp and not intended to remove feet callouses.

This chainsaw is for industrial use by trained lumberjacks. It is not intended as a toy for children under the age of seven.

This lighter fluid is dangerous and should not be stored in a child’s crib.

The medical profession is a part of this game also. Every day, I have informed consent discussions with patients regarding procedures that I have advised them to undergo. These are informal conversations when I try to give patients sufficient information so that they can make informed decisions. This is reasonable and a fundamental part of the doctor-patient relationship.

The hospital, however, is not satisfied with my efforts and requires that patients sign long consent forms, which most patients sign blindly without reading them. For any readers here who have had the pleasure of having enjoyed hospital life, I’m sure that you can attest how many different forms you have signed from the moment you arrived at the hospital door to your discharge. Most patients and physicians regard these signings to be mere formalities, which are intended to protect hospitals and not patients. If patients actually took the time to read through all of these legal CYA (cover your a**) forms, it might grind the hospital to halt. There’s not enough time for patients to read and understand all this drivel.

Caution readers: This blog is not intended to inform, enlighten, provoke, challenge or amuse readers. Readers accept all responsibility for any resultant angst or mental torment and hold blogger harmless for any and all perceived damages until the end of time.

Click I AGREE.

Michael Kirsch is a gastroenterologist who blogs at MD Whistleblower.

Image credit: Shutterstock.com

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