Three days before Christmas in 1995, Linda Horton, a medical researcher in Nashville, Tenn., was diagnosed with a large, fast-growing tumor in her breast. She quickly began her treatment course: chemotherapy to shrink the tumor, followed by a mastectomy—her doctors then told her the cancer was stage II—and additional chemotherapy afterward.
Horton didn’t qualify for any clinical trials for her cancer, but had her oncologist found one, she probably wouldn’t have thought long about signing the informed consent form. Patients consent to a medical treatment or procedure, in theory, only after they’ve been given enough information to make a sound decision. But in the midst of a cancer diagnosis and treatment, feeling fully informed can be challenging—and many patients just want to move forward. “Would I have signed something if he asked me to?” Horton asks. “Yup.”