What Is Informed Consent in Relation to Medical Malpractice?
Posted in Medical Malpractice on October 19, 2020
All patients receiving care from a medical professional have the right to know certain information. The law requires these professionals to obtain patients’ informed consent before a medical procedure, communicating the benefits and the risks so a patient can choose whether or not he or she wants to receive this care. If a medical professional fails to obtain this consent and the patient suffers an injury during the procedure, the patient may have grounds for a medical malpractice lawsuit.
The Definition of Informed Consent
Many medical procedures have potential complications that could arise. As a result, doctors must communicate these risks prior to the treatment so that their patients can decide whether or not they want to participate. The process of providing this information and obtaining a patient’s agreement is informed consent.
For a doctor to adequately obtain a patient’s consent, he or she must inform the patient of the following information.
- The patient’s diagnosis
- The treatment the doctor wants to provide
- The doctor’s rationale for providing the treatment
- The procedure’s benefits and risks
- The benefits and risks of not undergoing the procedure
- Alternative options the patient could choose and their risks and benefits
Patients must also provide their consent out of their own free will; a doctor cannot pressure or force a patient to consent to treatment. In addition, patients must also be mentally competent at the time they provide informed consent. If a doctor obtains consent from a patient while he or she is on mind-altering medication, slipping in and out of consciousness, or is otherwise unable to comprehend the risks and benefits, the consent is not valid.
Exceptions to the Informed Consent Rule
While doctors do have to obtain informed consent in most situations, there are scenarios where they can provide treatment without explaining the risks and benefits to a patient. Routine and non-invasive treatment does not usually require informed consent. If a patient is in an emergency situation, he or she may not be physically able to provide consent and medical staff may have the authority to provide life-saving treatment without obtaining it. Patients who are mentally disabled or under the age of 18 cannot legally provide consent, so medical professionals will need to contact their parents or legal guardians to obtain consent.
Filing a Lawsuit Over Informed Consent
Doctors cannot perform procedures on patients without their informed consent. If a doctor failed to obtain informed consent or obtained consent through force, coercion, or trickery, the patient can hold the professional accountable through a lawsuit if he or she sustains an injury during the procedure.
When doctors obtain informed consent, they usually ask their patients to sign a waiver that explains the risks and benefits of the procedure. However, these waivers often release facilities and professionals from liability in case a patient suffers an injury during a procedure. Patients do retain the right to file a lawsuit for malpractice, even if they signed waivers, if any of the following circumstances apply to their case.
- The waiver failed to inform the patient of a known complication and the patient sustained that complication during the procedure.
- The waiver contained ambiguous language and the patient was unable to adequately comprehend the risks involved with the procedure.
- The waiver failed to accurately describe the risk the patient suffered or included misinformation about the risk.
- The nature of the negligence was preventable.
- The negligent act or omission rises to the level of gross negligence.
If you believe you are the victim of medical malpractice, speak to an attorney as soon as possible. Your lawyer can examine the circumstances surrounding your informed consent, determine if you have grounds for a lawsuit, and take the initial steps to hold the medical professional accountable for your injuries.