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Informed consent is an important aspect of surgery, yet there has been little inquiry as to what patients want to know before their operation. This study has questioned 50 patients within 3 months of an ENT (ear, nose and throat) operation. We found that most were happy to allow doctors to determine their treatment but they wanted to know about their condition, the treatment, and the important side effects. Fifty per cent of patients admitted worrying about some aspect of their recent surgery. More than two-thirds thought signing a consent form primarily signified agreement to undergo treatment and that it was a legal document; 54% thought there was an important medico-legal aspect. Over half thought information sheets would be reassuring, one-third thought they would provoke anxiety and 8% thought they would frighten them from having surgery. Closer examination of the answers to our questions showed that those who were most worried about aspects of their surgery had a higher mean anxiety score, as did those who thought an information sheet would be either frightening or anxiety provoking. However, a higher anxiety score was not associated with a desire to know less about the proposed treatment.