When a patient signs a consent form at the doctor’s office or the hospital, he or she is agreeing to treatment. But, most do not realize the legal importance of that document, or what it means if something were to go wrong. When physicians recommend a course of treatment for the patient, they are required to explain the benefits as well as the risks associated with that treatment. Failure to do so means that the patient was not properly informed before consenting, which opens the door to a malpractice lawsuit.
Informed consent is what ensures that a patient makes an informed decision about healthcare. A patient can only make that decision once he or she has been presented with all relevant information. If a physician fails to receive real informed consent, this is negligence.
Patients have the right to know what treatment is likely to be successful, as well as the potential side-effects. They also should request answers to any other pertinent questions. According to the American Medical Association (AMA), six levels are required to meet the demands of informed consent:
Most patients are unaware of their right to receive informed consent, or they trust their physician enough to heed to their advice. Therefore, they don’t ask these questions.
While it is the doctor’s duty to present the patient with all of the relevant information, it is also the patient’s responsibility to ask about potential outcomes for the treatment, understand the diagnosis, and know the risks if he or she forgoes treatment options.
There are instances where physicians do not need informed consent and are not considered negligent. These examples include:
Informed consent is not there to scare patients. Instead, it is a layer of protection so that patients do not receive treatments that pose significant risks. It is also to serve as a layer of protection for the doctor. By retrieving informed consent, the doctor can now proceed without worry that a patient will sue later.
While informed consent is required, not all physicians obtain valid informed consent. There are instances where a doctor will leave out details – including potential risks – and treat a patient with consent. If you feel that you were not given the right information before agreeing or you never gave your consent for treatment, you may be able to sue that physician for malpractice.