What You Need to Know About Informed Consent

What You Need to Know About Informed Consent

by / Wednesday, 04 November 2020 / Published in Medical Malpractice
Doctor talking with patient.

You’d be hard pressed to find a medical procedure or treatment option that doesn’t involve a potential risk of complications. Even relatively simple, routine procedures can still carry a risk of complications or negative side effects and it’s very important for patients to understand what might be in store if they agree to undergo the procedure or treatment. That’s where the concept of informed consent comes in.

What is Informed Consent?

When doctors talk to patients about undergoing a medical procedure or other type of treatment, they will very likely tell them about the benefits it would have to offer. But it’s also important they also provide information about the potential downsides of those procedures, such as the risk of things like complications and negative side effects, as well as any potential alternatives to that procedure/treatment. This way, patients can decide for themselves if they want to move forward with the procedure or treatment. This concept is known as informed consent.

If informed consent is needed, the patient will likely be required to sign a form confirming that the risks of the procedure were discussed with them, that they understood the information, and that you agree to the procedure. Doctors aren’t necessarily required to inform patients about every single possible complication that might stem from a procedure or treatment, but they are supposed to inform patients of the most significant drawbacks.

When is Informed Consent Needed?

Informed consent might not be needed for all treatments and procedures. Most likely, informed consent is going to be involved with things like surgical procedures, other procedures requiring anesthesia, blood transfusions, and for radiation and chemotherapy treatments. If a person agrees to participate in a clinical trial, informed consent is also needed. If a patient is a minor or is incapable of giving consent themselves, a parent or other appointed person could be able to give informed consent on the patient’s behalf.

In some situations, medical professionals may not necessarily require informed consent before moving forward with a procedure or treatment. If a patient is experiencing a life-threatening medical emergency and immediate action needs to be taken to save the patient’s life, informed consent likely would not be needed. Or if a patient is already in an extremely fragile mental state and informing them of the risks of a procedure would make matters worse, a doctor might be exempt from obtaining informed consent.

Informed Consent & Medical Malpractice

If a doctor neglects to appropriately obtain informed consent, it could potentially be considered medical malpractice. Remember how we said that doctors don’t necessarily need to inform patients about all possible risks of a procedure/treatment, only the most significant ones? Since people can have differing ideas of what “significant” means, a key question to consider whether or not other doctors would have disclosed a certain risk. It’s also important to question whether or not a typical patient would have made a different decision about the procedure if they had been aware of a risk.

Once a patient has provided informed consent for a procedure or treatment, that consent applies to that specific procedure or treatment. If a doctor ends up performing a different procedure, the patient could have grounds for a malpractice suit.

Need Help with an Informed Consent Case?

If you or a loved one has experienced a problem involving informed consent, we can help. At Goodwin & Scieszka, you’ll be able to get help from a Michigan medical malpractice lawyer who can answer all of your questions and work with you to understand your legal options. Medical malpractice cases can be very complicated and it’s crucial to have an experienced lawyer on your side. Contact us today for help with your case.

Image: iStock / LightFieldStudios

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