Most medical procedures involve a degree of risk for patients, for that reason it is important that doctors inform patients about the risks and potential side effects that can arise from a medical procedure. Informed consent in medicine is the process by which a physician fully explains a medical treatment or procedure to a patient prior to performing it and gets the patient’s consent to perform the procedure. In most cases, doctors require the patient to sign a consent form prior to a treatment or procedure, but a consent form does not necessarily mean that a patient gave informed consent. The doctor must inform the patient of the risks of the treatment or procedure so that the patient understands the to the best degree possible. To sum things up, patients have the right to get information about treatment that has been recommended by their doctor so they can make informed decisions.
What must be disclosed?
Doctors must disclose information and risks that they think are important, but what exactly is important? When deciding what is important to disclose, there are two questions a doctor should ask themselves:
Would another doctor have disclosed this information?
Would a patient change their decision based on this information?
If the answer to one or both of those questions is yes, then the doctor should disclose that information.
Informed Consent in Medical Malpractice Cases
Lack of informed consent is one common reason for medical malpractice lawsuits. Claims based on lack of informed consent occur because a doctor did not disclose significant risk to the patient. If a patient would not have undergone a medical procedure if they were aware of the risks involved, they can make a medical malpractice claim. It is the doctor’s responsibility to disclose all information that is important enough to affect the patient’s decision to undergo treatment.
Informed consent is not necessary in emergency situations where a doctor must act quickly or in situations where the patient is unable to consent to treatment. Another situation where informing a patient of all risks is up to the doctor’s discretion is when a patient is emotionally unstable and might refuse treatment.