INFORMED CONSENT: YOUR EDITOR AND YOU

The legal concept of “informed consent” tends to be applied mainly to doctors, but in thinking about the (typical) author/editor relationship, it got me thinking . . .

The American Medical Association guidelines on informed consent for their member physicians read:

Informed consent is more than simply getting a patient to sign a written consent form. It is a process of communication between a patient and physician that results in the patient’s authorization or agreement to undergo a specific medical intervention.

In the communications process, you, as the physician providing or performing the treatment and/or procedure (not a delegated representative), should disclose and discuss with your patient:

–The patient’s diagnosis, if known

–The nature and purpose of a proposed treatment or procedure

–The risks and benefits of a proposed treatment or procedure

–Alternatives (regardless of their cost or the extent to which the treatment options are covered by health insurance)

–The risks and benefits of the alternative treatment or procedure

–The risks and benefits of not receiving or undergoing a treatment or procedure.

In turn, your patient should have an opportunity to ask questions to elicit a better understanding of the treatment or procedure, so that he or she can make an informed decision to proceed or to refuse a particular course of medical intervention.

Authors and editors, please consider this rewrite . . .

An edit is more than simply changing text around. It is a process of communication between an author and editor that results in the author’s authorization or agreement to undergo a specific set of revisions.

In the communications process, you, as the editor providing or performing the edit (not a delegated representative), should disclose and discuss with your author:

–The specific revisions requested

–The nature and purpose of a proposed revision

–The risks and benefits of a proposed revisions

–Alternatives

–The risks and benefits of the alternative revisions

–The risks and benefits of not receiving or undergoing a specific revision.

In turn, your author should have an opportunity to ask questions to elicit a better understanding of the edit or revision, so that he or she can make an informed decision to proceed or to refuse a particular alteration to the text.

I’m going to just throw that out there with only one note, which is when I said (typical) above I mean excluding certain work-for-hire, shared world, etc. relationships in which an editor has a second master—the shared setting—that has needs of its own and the author has been informed that he or she does not own Star Wars or the Forgotten Realms now or at any time in the future, and needs must as continuity demands.

Otherwise . . . thoughts?

 

—Philip Athans

 

About Philip Athans

Philip Athans is the New York Times best-selling author of Annihilation and a dozen other books including The Guide to Writing Fantasy and Science Fiction, and the recently-released How to Start Your Own Religion and Devils of the Endless Deep. His blog, Fantasy Author’s Handbook, (https://fantasyhandbook.wordpress.com/) is updated every Tuesday, and you can follow him on Twitter @PhilAthans.
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4 Responses to INFORMED CONSENT: YOUR EDITOR AND YOU

  1. PASchaefer says:

    Editors interested in the welfare of their authors should be so involved.

  2. Tom says:

    It would be nice. After all, discussion between an editor and myself as a writer is always a better way. I learn more when I know the “why”, rather than just the “what?”

  3. Pingback: INFORMED CONSENT: PHYSICIAN-PATIENT RELATIONSHIP AS A CONTRACTUAL OBLIGATION « San0670's Blog

  4. What a great way to explain the responsibilities of an editor. An author’s writing is his baby, so he needs to trust the editor and understand the ramifications of the relationship. I will use this as my guide as writer and editor moving forward.

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