Cleveland Medical Malpractice Lawyer Explains Informed Consent in Medical Procedures August 29, 2012.
Informed consent is the practice of sharing vital information with a patient before he or she undergoes any procedure, test, or treatment. Every medical procedure entails risks, though some are more serious than others. Physicians must tell their patient about any risks beforehand. If a patient is not informed, and is injured, he or she may file a medical malpractice claim.
An Overview of Informed Consent
Physicians have a responsibility to their patients to provide enough information to make an informed decision as to whether to proceed with a particular procedure or treatment. Generally, a patient will then be asked to sign a consent form, which indicates that he or she understands the risks involved.
Signing a form may appear to leave a patient with no legal remedies, but should the patient suffer injuries, this isn’t necessarily true. If the physician left out important facts or risks concerning the procedure or treatment, he or she may still be held liable in some cases. The patient may not have chosen to undergo the procedure or treatment had he or she known of the risks.
Risks That Must Be Disclosed
Physicians are not obligated to share every detail about a medical procedure or treatment, so leaving information out doesn’t necessarily warrant pursuit of legal action. What they must share, however, are any important risks. Of course, an individual’s idea of important may be different from another’s, therefore, there are general guidelines that courts may use when determining whether a risk should be disclosed. A lawyer can help you better understand how this applies to your case.
One guideline that might be used in some states is whether another physician under the same circumstances would have informed the patient about a particular risk or risks. One of the ways that this may be proven in court is through a medical expert. Keep in mind that simply experiencing a negative outcome doesn’t necessarily mean that any information was withheld that might warrant a claim. Unforeseen risks may occur in various medical treatments or procedures.
Another general guideline regarding informed consent that courts might use is whether another patient, under similar circumstances, would have opted out of the treatment or procedure had he or she been told of the risk(s) involved. The courts may also consider if the physician informed the patient of any alternative options to the treatment that was performed. Medical expert witnesses may also be involved in these cases.
States may differ in the standard used when determining whether risks should have been disclosed, so be sure to discuss this with an attorney. Ohio uses the second standard regarding whether another patient in a similar position would have refused treatment if risks were revealed.
There may be some exceptions concerning informing a patient of risks. For instance, if the patient is being treated in an emergency situation, there may not be enough time to go over the risks. What’s more, the patient may be incapacitated, or otherwise unable to make an informed decision.
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If you have questions about informed consent, call us today at (440) 333-3800 for a free consultation.