As an experienced medical professional, your doctor has a legal obligation to give you, as the patient, the information you need to make informed decisions about your treatment. Based on the information provided to you by the doctor, you may choose to consent to the medical procedure or treatment recommended by your doctor. A doctor is generally not allowed to treat patients without their ‘informed consent,’ but there a few exceptions.
What information is required to obtain informed consent?
Most patients are not medical professionals, and therefore may not be able to understand all the complexities of their medical condition and their treatment options. However, doctors have a responsibility to provide patients with information in a way they can understand. Doctors can use their own discretion when it comes to deciding what details should be shared with the patient, but they are generally required to provide the patient with the following information:
- Patient’s diagnosis (if known)
- Benefits and risks of the recommended treatment/procedure
- Benefits and risks of alternative treatments/procedures
- The purpose of undergoing treatment
- The consequences, if any, of refusing treatment
Is informed consent always required?
In many situations, doctors are required to obtain informed consent from their patients before beginning treatment. However, there are some exceptions to the rule. Doctors may not have to obtain informed consent if:
- The patient is unconscious or otherwise unable to communicate.
- The patient requires emergency/immediate treatment.
- The medical care being offered is routine or non-invasive, and does not constitute as an actual treatment or procedure (e.g. taking your blood pressure, listening to tyour heartbeat)
Filing a medical malpractice suit based on a lack of informed consent
A doctor leaving out a fact about a medical procedure or treatment is not in itself medical malpractice, as it is nearly impossible to cover every risk and aspect of the procedure with a patient. However, if the patient can show that they suffered harm due to the doctor’s treatment and that they would not have consented if they had additional information, that may be enough to constitute as medical malpractice. Laws vary from state to state, but courts will consider whether a reasonable person would have made a different decision with this additional information and/or whether a reasonable doctor would have disclosed the information.