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What is Informed Consent?

Posted on in Medical Malpractice

What is Informed Consent?

Before you can have a medical procedure performed, you must provide the doctor with informed consent. This is because you have bodily autonomy, the right to control what happens to your body. Many medical procedures carry some level of risk of adverse side effects or complications, and a key component of bodily autonomy is having the right to decide for yourself whether a specific medical procedure's benefits outweigh these risks.

Obtaining a patient's informed consent before performing a procedure is part of the standard of care for everything a doctor does. In most cases, performing a procedure without obtaining the patient's informed consent beforehand is an act of medical malpractice.

Required Steps for Obtaining Informed Consent

To obtain a patient's informed consent to a procedure, a doctor must:

  • Tell the patient about all the risks and benefits associated with a proposed treatment;
  • Inform the patient of the risks and benefits associated with alternative actions, including opting for no treatment;
  • Answer any relevant questions the patient has; and
  • Receive an affirmative response from the patient regarding the procedure.

Who Must Provide Informed Consent?

When the patient is a competent adult, a doctor must obtain his or her informed consent before performing a medical procedure. For an incapacitated adult, the doctor must obtain consent from the individual's legal guardian or the party with power of attorney for his or her medical care. When the patient is a child, his or her parent or legal guardian must provide informed consent.

When is Informed Consent Not Necessary?

There are circumstances under which a doctor can perform a procedure without obtaining the patient's informed consent. Doctors are also not required to tell patients about minor side effects and risks associated with the procedures they receive – just the substantial risks that could drive the patient to choose a different procedure or none at all. In a medical malpractice case alleging a lack of informed consent, the court must determine whether another doctor would reasonably have informed the patient about his or her chance of experiencing a specific side effect or complication to determine if the doctor was negligent.

Doctors are not required to obtain patients' informed consent to life-saving procedures in emergency situations. When working with emotionally fragile patients who seem likely to refuse critical treatment after being informed of its risks, doctors may be vague about the risks associated with the treatment and withhold information in an effort to push the patient toward treatment. In cases like this, the doctor must articulate a well-reasoned justification for his or her choice.

Work with an Experienced Libertyville Medical Malpractice Lawyer

If you were injured or suffered an adverse side effect or worsened condition because your doctor performed a procedure without getting your informed consent to do so, you have the right to pursue monetary compensation for your damages through a medical malpractice claim. To learn more about your rights and legal options when you are in this position, contact our team of medical malpractice lawyers at Newland & Newland, LLP today to set up your initial consultation in our office. We serve clients in the Arlington Heights, Palatine, Rolling Meadows, Libertyville, Mundelein, Buffalo Grove, Schaumburg, Elk Grove, and Itasca areas.

(image courtesy of Piron Guillaume)

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