Every time a patient requires surgery or other form of medical treatment, formal consent must be given to allow the healthcare professional to proceed. Physicians are legally and ethically required to involve their patient fully in decisions regarding their treatment, which includes providing an explanation of the procedure, alternative courses of treatment, and the extent of the risks involved. A physician’s failure to obtain informed consent could lead to a claim for medical malpractice.
It is a widely held misconception that a signature on a pre-printed consent form constitutes informed consent. While an important part of the process, it does not absolve the physician of taking the time ensure that a patient is an active participant in the decision-making process. A signed consent form, therefore, does not necessarily equate to informed consent and may be considered lack of informed consent. In addition, when consent is obtained while a patient is obtunded by their medical condition or medications such as sedatives and narcotics, it may not meet the requirements of a truly informed consent.
To avoid a claim of lack of informed consent, a physician must:
- Explain clearly the nature of any surgery or procedure
- Identify and explain any reasonable alternatives to the procedure including alternatives that require a referral to another physician
- Explain the potential risks and benefits involved
- Ensure that the patient understands all of the above
Only once all these conditions have been satisfied can a patient be deemed to have given their informed consent.
If you or someone you love has been the victim of medical negligence, please contact us today to schedule your free initial consultation. We’ll review your medical malpractice claim with you and help you determine how to best proceed.
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