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What is Informed Consent?

By Butler Prather LLP on January 14, 2020

Surgeries and most other medical procedures involve a certain degree of risk and potential side effects. Before medical professionals can proceed with procedures, they must obtain informed consent for the patients. Failing to obtain informed consent could result in a patient filing a lawsuit against a doctor for medical malpractice in the event they are injured due to the procedure. Informed consent is much more than a patient simply signing their name. There are various elements to informed consent that must be met in order for the consent to be valid.

informed consent

The standards of informed consent

The American Medical Association states that a patient is only able to make informed decisions about whether or not to receive treatment “if they have enough information about the treatment, its benefits, and side effects.”

Most individuals agree to undergo various procedures during their lives. This usually involves signing documents stating that we are aware of the risks but wish to undergo the procedure anyway. If the person undergoing the procedure is a minor, unconscious, or legally disabled, their legal representative will be the one to give consent or not for the procedure.

The only way a person is able to make a fully informed decision about whether or not to give consent is if they are told all of the benefits and negative consequences of the procedure in question. A patient should have a discussion about the procedure with the doctor or surgeon and not a lesser trained individual working on their behalf. During this discussion, they should receive the following information:

  • a complete explanation of their diagnosis
  • explanations of all recommended treatments or procedures for their diagnosis
  • the risks and benefits of these treatments or procedures
  • the risks of not receiving the treatments or procedures
  • any viable alternatives to the procedure in question
  • the risks and benefits of the alternatives

When physicians fail to fully explain the risks of a procedure, and a patient ends up with an injury they should have known was possible, there may be a claim of medical malpractice.

Informed consent in an emergency

In an emergency, medical professionals generally do not have time to carefully go over potential risks with their patient. If they need to perform a lifesaving procedure in order to save a patient’s life, they can generally do so without obtaining informed consent from the patient or the patient’s representative.

Performing a different procedure

If a doctor performs a procedure that is different from the one they obtained informed consent for, the patient may be able to file a medical malpractice lawsuit based on their lack of informed consent about that procedure. However, they may not be able to do so if a doctor fixes a serious problem they discover during the course of performing the initial procedure. This type of medical malpractice claim would only be valid if the additional procedure was a mistake and the patient was harmed.

Establishing an informed consent medical malpractice claim

If you or someone you love was harmed due to a medical procedure that you did not give informed consent to be performed, a medical malpractice attorney will be necessary to help prove your case. These cases can become complicated, and your attorney will perform a thorough investigation in order to prove that the medical professional was careless or negligent in their actions.

When you are ready for a free consultation, call our Atlanta personal injury attorneys at (404) 321-1700.

Posted in: Personal Injury

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