One of the cornerstones of medicine involves patient consent. Before administering any medical and health care procedures and treatments, health care professionals must obtain approval from their patients or their representatives.
It is important that you review all the information that your doctor provides and ask questions to make sure you understand things before signing a consent form.
What is informed consent?
Informed consent is not just a piece of paper. It also involves your doctor/medical team being open and upfront about any treatment or procedure you are considering. In addition to you receiving paperwork listing insurance/payment and information about your HIPAA rights, your doctor is responsible for informing you about the following:
- Available procedure/treatment alternatives
- Risks associated with alternative options
- Description of the process
- Dangers and risks related to the procedure and treatments
- The reason for the procedure and expected outcome
- Potential outcomes of forgoing treatment
The above requirements are so you can make the most informed decision about your care and what you believe is best for you. Many patients do not get enough time with their doctors to learn everything they should before giving their consent. If your doctor does not give you the proper information about your medical needs, he or she could end up facing a medical malpractice suit.
Informed consent limitations
Doctors do not have to list every single symptom or risk when providing consent. However, if someone undergoes treatment that another individual with similar medical history and situation would generally decline after receiving proper consent, malpractice is likely. In fact, this is often the case in medical malpractice suits stemming from informed consent issues.
For example, a patient goes to the doctor, who tells her that she needs to have surgery to remove her gallbladder. Her doctor provides her with some details regarding her medical situation before giving her consent forms to sign. She decides to have the procedure because of what her doctor told her. During recovery, she experiences symptoms/complications that were not mentioned that cause her to require additional medical care. Depending on her outcome, she may have a malpractice case.