One of the rules in medicine is that before a physician can undertake any type of treatment or procedure, they are required to inform the patient about the potential risks. Most patients, with sound body and mind, would like to know beforehand the risks of a procedure or treatment so that they can decide if they want to go ahead. For example, if a particular procedure could result in paralysis or loss of vision, some patients may feel that the surgery is not worth the risk. All reasonable patients would like to know the risks of drugs or surgeries. This is known as informed consent and is a vital aspect of medicine. Sometimes the doctor may fail to get informed consent from a patient and proceed with a high-risk procedure, which could result in major complications or perform a surgery which the patient was never informed about. If a mishap occurs, the patient has the legal right to file a medical malpractice lawsuit.
What is Informed Consent?
Most medical treatments or procedures have some type of risk. It is the physician’s responsibility to inform the patient about these risks. For example, a patient needs open heart surgery to bypass the blocked blood vessels in the heart. The surgeon has to inform the patient that there is a small risk of pneumonia, kidney failure, or wound infection. Because the risks are small, and the complications can be managed, most patients will agree to the bypass, which can be life-saving.
On the other hand, an obese female goes to a plastic surgeon and insists on a tummy tuck. The surgeon should inform her that this procedure can result in major bleeding, blood clots, infection, and even damage to the internal organs. If the patient decides that they still want to undergo a tummy tuck, it is then their choice. Since the surgery is cosmetic in nature, some patients may feel that the risk of serious complications is too high to accept and decline the surgery. But the surgeon has to inform the patient about these potential common problems that can occur.
In simple words, the entire process of providing adequate medical information to a patient and getting the patient’s agreement for a procedure or treatment is known as informed consent.
The Process of Informed Consent
Physicians usually ask patients to sign a consent form that details the potential risks of any given procedure or treatment. But just because a patient signs this form does not mean that the physician is now at liberty to do what they want. Before they get the patient to sign, they must explain the pros and cons of the treatment.
Sometimes, doctors ask the junior staff or nurses to obtain consent. This may not always be appropriate as the junior staff may not be doing the actual surgery, and many have no idea about potential complications that could arise. It is the surgeon who is responsible for actually discussing the procedure and potential risks with the patient. If the doctor doesn’t provide the risk of surgery, then the patient has no idea what is involved. If the patient knows about the risks, then they can take an informed decision and decline the procedure if they wish.
In general, doctors do not have to disclose every single potential problem that can arise but at least disclose what any reasonable doctor would. In emergency situations, doctors may not be able to get informed consent, but then again, they have to do what a reasonable physician would do to save a patient’s life.
Medical Malpractice Lawyer at Burnetti Law
If you had to undergo a procedure or treatment and the doctor did not provide you with sufficient information or did not obtain your consent, and this treatment has resulted in health complications for you, you should speak to a medical malpractice lawyer. The medical malpractice attorney may be able to help you determine if you have a case against the doctor for not getting informed consent from you. Call our medical malpractice attorney at Burnetti Law and tell them about the details of your procedure and the negative consequences on your health. Remember, medical malpractice cases can be fairly complicated. You need to gather proper evidence, and you have to prove that the healthcare provider has been negligent in their care or duty towards you. This will require significant evaluation of documents and events. Talk to our medical malpractice lawyer for more details in this regard.