What is Informed Consent?

A gavel with a stack of legal books in the background, beside the words "Informed Consent"

When a doctor sees you in an office or hospital, he or she has certain obligations to fulfill to you. Since you’re trusting your life, health, and well-being to that doctor, misconduct on the doctor’s part is extremely unacceptable.

One important obligation that a doctor has to you is making sure that you are fully informed on an upcoming procedure and that you give your consent before they perform it. Properly obtaining informed consent is not always a simple process; failure to obtain consent properly, however, is a form of medical malpractice, so it’s important that they take the proper steps to fulfill this obligation.

Informed Consent Definition

Informed consent is the process through which a patient learns of the purpose, potential risks, and benefits of a procedure. The patient must also be informed of any alternatives to the procedure and the risks and benefits involved with not getting the procedure done.

Next, the patient must be able to ask questions and then get a proper amount of time to decide whether or not they want to go through with the procedure. Finally, the patient must sign a consent form.

There are two other kinds of consent that may be appropriate in certain situations. When you enter a doctor’s office, there is an implied consent for the doctor or nurse to take basic information, take your temperature, and do certain other routine tests and procedures.

For certain tests and procedures that can be performed in a doctor’s office, only oral consent is required.

Examples of Failure to Obtain Informed Consent

There are many ways in which a doctor or nurse may fail to properly obtain informed consent. Here are some common cases:

The Doctor Gives a Form with No Explanation

The written consent form is the final element of informed consent – not the only element. If a doctor gives a patient a consent form but does not explain the procedure and let the patient ask questions about it, the doctor has not properly gotten informed consent.

The Doctor does Not Explain All the Risks

A doctor must explain all of the potential risks associated with a procedure – except for those risks that are not known at the time that the doctor performs the procedure. A failure to do so is a failure to fully inform the patient about the procedure.

The doctor cannot exclude any risks just because the doctor does not believe the risk to be real. For example, if a doctor does not believe that the Tetanus shot can cause Guillain-Barre Syndrome and so does not inform a patient of this risk, the patient is not fully informed of the risks.

The Doctor does Not Give the Patient Alternatives

Some procedures have alternatives which the doctor may deem to be less effective. While the doctor can advise against an alternative, neglecting to tell a patient about alternatives is neglecting to fully inform the patient.

One alternative that a doctor should always give is forgoing the treatment. A patient must be able to fully weigh the benefits and risks of doing and not doing the procedure against each other.

The Patient Cannot Give Consent

A doctor may fully explain a procedure, give the patient time to ask questions and decide, and get a signed consent form, but that doesn’t matter if the patient can’t legally give consent. This includes patients who are minors or mentally disabled. In these cases, a parent, guardian, or legal representative must be the one to give consent.

The Doctor Coerces or Forces a Patient’s Consent

If a patient gives consent under coercion or duress, it is not proper consent.

The Patient does Not Sign a Consent Form

The consent form protects both the doctor and the patient. Without a signed consent form, there is no indication that a patient actually gave consent for the procedure.

Did a doctor subject you to a medical procedure without obtaining informed consent? Branch & Dhillon P.C. can help you. Their legal team will help you prove that you were not fully informed before the procedure so that you can receive the compensation you deserve.