When Does No Informed Consent Mean Medical Malpractice?



When you find out you have a medical issue that requires treatment, the situation can get overwhelming fast. You and your loved ones are suddenly trying to juggle schedules, sift through research, decipher medical jargon, evaluate the risk and mitigate apprehension.


Healthcare treatment and medication almost always comes with risk, and you trust your doctor and his or her staff to offer you the best chance at recovery. But sometimes things go wrong and patients wonder if the problems that result could have been avoided.


What Exactly is Informed Consent?


In some situations, patients say they would have chosen differently had they known the risks. It’s your healthcare professional’s job to help you weigh the risks versus benefits and to obtain your consent to provide treatment. If they don’t, they risk medical malpractice.


The process should be straightforward and explicit. Before prescribing medication or recommending a course of treatment, your healthcare professional should explain to you the known risks or side effects. They should also tell you about alternative treatments, and what might happen if you don’t take action at all. Unless it’s an emergency, you should have time to think it over and talk to people you trust.


Your doctor should also be willing to answer any questions until you feel confident about your decision. In many cases, doctors ask patients to sign a consent form saying they’re aware of the risks and they still give permission for treatment.


What Types of Risks Must Doctors Disclose?


New treatments and medications are approved all the time. Sometimes it takes years for some risks to become known. Your physician usually can’t be expected warn you about a possible complication no one has yet encountered or experienced. If injury or death occurs and a medical malpractice lawsuit results, most cases will be decided based on statistics. If there was a known chance something might go wrong, your doctor should have let you know about it.


Your healthcare professional has a duty to stay informed, and if he or she knows treatment could put you at risk, you have a right to know about it. If they don’t and you get injured, that’s considered negligent, and you’re entitled to legal action.


Times When Informed Consent Isn’t Required


In rare cases, healthcare workers don’t have to explain risks and benefits and receive your consent before providing treatment. If they’re just evaluating you for a regular checkup, they aren’t required to have you sign any paperwork. If it’s an emergency and delaying treatment could make things worse or risk your life, physicians can and should start working to save you immediately.


At times, patients are unable to give informed consent. For example, someone unconscious or having a seizure may not be able to respond. Children aren’t old enough to weigh risks and benefits, so the responsibility of giving consent falls to their parent or guardian.


If You Experienced Injury from Medical Treatment


If you trusted your physician to help you get better, and the very methods they used actually made things worse, it can change your life forever. If they withheld information about the risks, you might have chosen a different treatment and avoided the resulting injury.


You deserve compensation for that doctor’s negligence and for the pain and suffering you experienced because of it. Schedule your free consultation with our personal injury attorneys today.