What is Informed Consent and How Can it Help Prevent Medical Malpractice?
Informed consent is integral to the doctor-patient relationship. Patients need to trust and rely on their doctors to use their extensive training and experience to heal them. That does not mean you should be left in the dark when it comes to making medical decisions.
Informed Consent is an important part of the doctor-patient relationship
Proper informed consent is a critical part of promoting patient safety. It requires that doctors explain what your health condition is and what treatments are available. You are not blindly agreeing to a treatment or procedure—you should have a reasonable amount of information so that you can decide whether the treatment is the best suited for you.
Before any treatment or procedure you should understand:
- Your current medical condition
- Why the procedure or treatment is being proposed
- Who will be performing the procedure and what their qualifications are
- The risks of the proposed treatment or procedure
- Any reasonable alternative procedures and treatments
- The chances that the procedure or treatment will be successful
- The expected recovery time
- What the recovery period will entail (bed rest, therapy, crutches, etc…)
- The cost of the procedure or treatment and whether it will be covered by your insurance
You should have an opportunity to ask your doctor(s) any questions that you have about the proposed treatment. Further, you should also have an opportunity to talk with your family members and any significant others about the treatment or procedure being suggested. You should also have a chance to get a second opinion if you feel the situation warrants it. You should also always be able to request a copy of any form you sign.
After you has given informed consent, a doctor and/or hospital must limit the scope of the procedure accordingly. Doctors can take reasonable actions to respond to any emergency or unexpected situation that may arise during the procedure. However, doctors can’t assume that you would have agreed to a different or additional treatment. Exceeding the scope of the consent you give can lead to a medical malpractice lawsuit.
Often times the forms you sign at the hospital or in the doctor’s office feel like a formality. Despite being provided routinely, consent forms are a very important part of any treatment you receive. Giving informed consent means a patient understands the procedure and the rationale for it and have given your permission for your doctor to proceed. In a healthy doctor-patient relationship, patients should always feel like they are in control of any decision affecting their health.
Medical Malpractice + Patient Safety