The ability of patients to understand and recall information given prior to obtaining written consent was assessed in 55 patients who were due to undergo the operation of transurethral resection of prostate. The patients were also asked their opinion on informed consent. Most patients knew the position of the prostate and the purpose of the operation. Some aspects of the postoperative management and complications were less well remembered. In particular, 18% of the patients could not remember the possibility of retrograde ejaculation despite efforts to emphasize this. Of the patients who returned their questionnaires, 41% did not mind what happened to them provided they were made better; 54% trusted their doctor to do the right thing and did not think detailed explanation was important; 62% felt that consent forms are to protect the doctor's right; still most patients felt that consent forms were necessary. Sub-groups comparison showed no relationship between patients' attitude and their ability to recall information.