This study in the context of short-stay surgery is based on a definition according to which informed consent consists of five elements: consent, voluntariness, disclosure of information, understanding and competence. The data were collected in four district hospitals in southern Finland by using a structured questionnaire. The population consisted of short-stay and one-day surgery patients (n = 107). Data analysis was based on statistical methods. The results indicated some problems in the realization of informed consent. Most commonly, consent was expressed by voluntary admission. Most patients had indicated their voluntary consent by making their decision independently. There were also certain problems with information. The respondents were least well informed about the drawbacks of anaesthesia and about alternative forms of treatment. The patients had not understood all the information they had received; problems of understanding were greatest with information about the advantages and disadvantages of anaesthesia. Problems were also reported with competence. These patients had the most difficulty in assessing the advantages and drawbacks of different treatments and anaesthesia.