What Is Informed Consent?
Unless you have a medical degree or are a doctor yourself, one thing is true when you go to the doctor: your doctor will have much more information about your medical condition than you do. Because of that, you have a right to knowingly be informed of what will happen to you and to your body. That’s why there are informed consent laws, which require that certain things be disclosed to you by your doctor or medical providers.
Informed consent means that your doctor has to get your permission before any procedure can be performed on you. Note the “informed” part of the term; that means that it isn’t enough just to get your permission, but your doctor also has to give you some basic information about the procedure that you will undergo so that you can make a meaningful choice.
As a general rule, the doctor must explain to you (verbally or in writing, although it is almost always done in writing) what the procedure is that you will be undergoing. The potential benefits and risks should be explained to you as well. That includes risks that are uncommon, or which aren‘t expected to occur, but which can occur.
The consent also must explain to you alternatives to the suggested treatment. That may include the option of doing nothing, which is still an option you have the right to choose.
Informed consent generally does not have to be given in emergency procedures. For minors and those who are incapacitated, the consent can be given to parents or legal guardians.
How Informed Consent Can be Violated
Although many doctors nowadays are pretty good about disclosing to you this information, not all are, and mistakes or omissions do happen. For example, many doctors will give consent forms to patient’s right before their procedure, when the patient is nervous, scared, or when it is too late to say no or turn back. Many informed consent forms don’t properly apprise patients of viable alternatives.
Consent forms may be so broad, and so generic, that the form really isn’t giving you any useful information at all.
Sometimes, multiple doctors may be performing multiple procedures all at one, but the patient only gets an informed consent related to one of the procedures.
Suing for Informed Consent
It is rare to sue a doctor simply for the failure to give informed consent. After all, if you don’t get proper consent, but the procedure goes wonderfully and you fully recover, there would be no damages in the failure to give the consent.
Many doctors will argue that even if they failed to give full and complete informed consent forms to you, that you would have undergone the procedure even if you had gotten the informed consent.
That’s why most often, informed consent lawsuits are brought with medical malpractice lawsuits, when things have gone wrong.
Call our Boston medical malpractice lawyers today at The Law Office of Joseph Linnehan, Jr. at 617-275-4200 to help if you have been a victim of medical malpractice.