When speaking of medical procedures and medical malpractice, it is not unusual to hear the term “informed consent” said and said quite often. But you might not be given a clear answer about what informed consent really means. What is it, then, and why is it important?
Informed consent is a legal process that allows a patient to accept or reject parts of their medical treatment plan before it begins. It should be established whenever possible and done on paper.
To establish informed consent, the patient should know about:
- Diagnosis: To begin, you should be told your diagnosis and all its important details. A diagnosis is a determination of your medical condition based on what your treating physician and possibly other medical experts have uncovered about it.
- Medical treatment suggestion: Next, you need to know what your treating physician is suggesting to alleviate your diagnosed medical condition. There are many ways to solve a singular medical issue, but there should be one treatment method that your physician suggests first and foremost. The information provided should detail what will happen and why.
- Intended outcomes: You should be told how the treatment can help. This information should be thorough and more than just a quick note like “you will feel better.” You should also be given a reasonable outcome and recovery time expectation.
- Potential risks: Perhaps most importantly, informed consent needs to tell you about all known and likely risks of your procedure. There is no medical procedure that doesn’t have some sort of risk. Even simple outpatient procedures can go wrong. Whether the potential side effect is minor or major, you have the right to know about it. For example, if there is a 10% chance that your hip replacement surgery could result in a limp, then you should be told that in the medical consent form.
- Possible alternative treatments: Are you not happy with the suggested treatment method? You should be provided a list of alternative treatments if there are any. Rarely are there no alternatives, so you be sure to ask your physician why if none are listed. The alternative treatments need to be detailed, too, which means you should know what happens during each, how each can help, and the risks involved with each.
- Additional information: Lastly, you should know where to get more information about your health condition and the suggested treatment. Your doctor should have reliable sources like the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). You can also ask where you can get a second opinion.
All of this information should be included on an informed consent form, which the patient is then given ample time to read and review. The form should include a spot to voluntarily sign and give permission, too. If any element of this form or process is missing, then informed consent might not have been correctly established.
Why is Informed Consent Important?
It is important for a medical provider to allow a patient to give informed consent whenever possible. By doing so, it can protect itself from medical malpractice claims that might follow if something goes wrong. Oppositely, without being able to provide informed consent, an injured patient could have a much easier time filing a claim or lawsuit.
Is Informed Consent Always Required?
During a medical emergency, informed consent is not always required. For example, if a patient is taken to the emergency room with life-threatening injuries, then the medical staff must try to treat them to the best of their abilities without taking the time to establish informed consent. In such a situation, informed consent might not even be possible to achieve if the patient is unresponsive and there are no loved ones available to immediately contact.
If you have any questions about informed consent and how it might play into a pending medical malpractice case you have in Texas, then you should contact the attorneys of Maloney Law Group, P.L.L.C. We can help you understand your rights as an injured patient, and what compensation might be owed to you. Call (210) 361-2997 now.