“Informed” Consent

The best argument against democracy is a five-minute conversation with the average voter.
Winston Churchill

I really try not to be a cynical person, but I’m afraid it’s in my nature.  I’ve either come by it genetically, or I’ve cultured a cynic’s attitude over the years.  I think, if channeled in a healthy manner, cynicism manifests itself as skepticism, which is a valuable tool in a scientist/engineer’s toolbox.

Unfortunately, every time I think I have managed to rehabilitate myself just a skosh, I come across something like this editorial by Dr. Alicia Fernandez (Annals of Internal Medicine, Vol. 153, No. 5), writing about one of the short-comings of informed consent:

The consent form used in this study was written at a 12th-grade level — far above the 8th-grade mean of both the population at large and recommended standards.

As the esteemed Dave Chappelle, impersonating Lil John would say: What!?

Did she just state that the mean education level is at the junior high level?  In America?  What about the mode?  The median?

Obviously, if I’m writing in a blog like this, I care about education and learning.  Am I supposed to be motivated by a statistic like that?  It tends more to cause despair.  Is the problem in our schools?  Is it a defect in the social fabric?  Is it even a real problem?  100 years ago, I’ll bet the mean education level was much lower.

I really don’t know what to think about it.  I do know that I am sadder for learning that.  And a little despondent…

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