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Does a Patient Have Rights to Informed Consent?

Written by Berkowitz

Lady in a Hospital BedWhen a physician recommends a course of treatment for a patient – whether that is medications, surgery, or another type of intervention – the doctor is required by law to explain the risks and benefits of the procedure to the patient. This is so the patient can make an informed decision about the treatment plan. Failure to provide this type of information to a patient could be considered a failure to obtain the informed consent, which is medical negligence.

A Patient’s Right

Patients have the right to know if a treatment being recommended to them is going to be successful, as well as any risks that are associated with it. According to the American Medical Association (AMA), there are six features that are used to determine if a patient has received informed consent:

  1. A diagnosis has been confirmed.
  2. The type of treatment has been described, as well as the purpose of that treatment.
  3. The risks and benefits of that treatment have been given to the patient.
  4. Any alternative treatments have been also recommended to the patient.
  5. The risks and benefits of the alternative treatments have been told to the patient.
  6. The risks and benefits of opting out of the recommended treatment have been expressed to the patient.

Most patients do not realize that they have the right to informed consent – especially if they assume that the doctor is too busy to answer their questions before agreeing to a procedure. Sometimes, a patient may not be sure what to ask their physician, so they just accept the treatment plan that they are presented with. Other times, a patient may ask about the proposed treatment, but not be given accurate answers by the physician.

There are some exceptions when it comes to providing informed consent – meaning that there are situations where a physician can skirt the actual process or not meet the six elements required. These include:

  • Treatment of a child. If a child is being treated, then the six elements would fall on the guardian or parents instead of the actual child.
  • Patients with life-threatening emergencies. If a person is not conscious or able to make any decisions, a medical professional can make decision on his or her behalf in order to save the life.
  • People with dementia or other mental impairments. If a patient cannot understand the consequences of the decision or comprehend the recommended treatment plan, the physician must obtain consent from a family member instead of the actual patient.

While the AMA has standards in place to ensure that patients receive informed consent, there is a system-wide failure for actual consent. Patients are often not given the information that they need to make a sound decision regarding their care, or they assume that all risks and benefits have been given to them (when some are not). Patients do have the right to refuse treatment after they hear the risks and benefits of a procedure, and they can request a second opinion before consenting. If the doctor feels that this is the wrong decision, they can tell the patient, but physicians are barred from influencing a patient to decide either way.

One way in which you can ensure that you are in control of your medical decisions is to complete an advanced directive. This will express your wishes and, in the event you are unconscious, medical professionals will be able to see what medical procedures they are allowed to use. Or, you can designate a healthcare proxy to make decisions for you.

Without Informed Consent, It’s Malpractice

If you were injured because of a treatment and not provided with accurate information about that treatment, you could be compensated through a medical malpractice lawsuit. Contact a medical malpractice attorney in Connecticut right away to explore your options and see if your case qualifies. Contact Berkowitz and Hanna LLC today to schedule a no-obligation case evaluation. Contact us online to get started.